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Council to consider how it can strengthen and improve its fostering service

Posted on: 8 July 2013

Devon County Council will consider a range of measures to reshape its fostering service and attract and retain more foster carers, in a report to be discussed at Cabinet this week (Wednesday 10 July).

With the number of children being placed by the Courts into the Council’s care increasing from 539 in 2008/9 to 693 in 2012/13, the Council’s Fostering Service is conversely seeing falling numbers of carers, as people retire or opt out of the service.

During that period, due to lack of in-house capacity, the Council saw significant increase in their use of private sector fostering providers, costing the Council nearly £4 million a year.

With less reliance on the private sector, the Council says it could be saving millions.

More importantly, increasing the capacity and breadth of its own fostering service will improve the stability of fostering placements, minimising the number of times a child might move between placements.

In their report, the Council sets out new measures to improve the service:

• Increased allowances for carers
• Specialist training for carers able to care for more challenging children and   young people
• More dedicated council staff to provide flexible support
• Increase birthday and Christmas allowances

The service, which Ofsted rated as ‘good with many outstanding features’, is the Council’s main resource for looking after children placed in its care.

The current situation is unsustainable says the Council, as it looks to increase the size of its fostering service by an extra 100 carer households over the next two years.

It has 315 carer households, who care for 344 children and young people. In addition a further 105 children are placed through independent fostering agencies.

The Council report says that some of its foster carers say that they can no longer afford to foster for Devon because they can’t afford to give up or reduce their employment hours in order to meet the needs of their foster children.

So Councillors will consider increasing current fostering allowances more in line with the private sector and more equivalent to salaried employment.

They will also consider a scheme to enable existing carers to be ‘promoted’ so they are able to offer specialist care to children and young people who have more challenging and complex care needs and as such become career foster carers.

And it wants to speed up the time it takes for people to become approved foster carers, reducing that period from nine to six months.

Councillor Will Mumford, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Council’s fostering service said:

”We have great foster parents providing incredible support to young people in our care.

“We need to build on this, and it’s time we looked again at how we can make this great service even better and flexible enough to meet current and future demand.

“We need to look at how we can support our foster carers better, attract more to our service, and improve it so that we’re able to care for more children and young people this way rather than use private agencies or residential care.

“These improvements, which have been supported by the independent Scrutiny Committee, will I believe provide a better service that will bring about better outcomes sooner for young people in our care.”