No place for a market

The support that foster carers receive in the private sector – both
financially and through training and social work help – is not a
luxury. It is what people need for the job, and to be spared the
anxiety – with which social care professionals are familiar – of
being unable to live up to the ideals that brought them into the
role because they are poorly managed and supported.

As with other disputes between the public and private sectors in
social care, most notably over inadequate care home fees for older
people, the true cause of the crisis in foster care is underfunding
of the system as a whole. Solving the problem means seeing foster
care as one system with the same aims, not as purchasers and
providers haggling in some outdated “market”. Private agencies have
not caused the national crisis in recruitment and retention of
foster carers. In fact, if the level of remuneration and support
the best private agencies provide was affordable, it would offer an
obvious solution. Foster carers may do it for love, but they can’t
survive on love alone.

In this context, the government’s new National Placement
Partnership Forum has an important role to play. But only if it
helps local authorities and private agencies together to gather
persuasive evidence of the true cost of the fostering service young
people need.

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