There have been a number of debates in the press recently regarding cash incentives or other inducements being offered by a small number of independent fostering providers and some Local Authorities to ‘poach’ foster carers who are already registered with either an Independent Provider or a Local Authority.
Just for the record, at NFA we never have and never will offer cash incentives to poach foster carers. There are currently over 93,000 looked after children in the United Kingdom of whom 55,400 are with foster families registered with either a Local Authority or an Independent Fostering Provider. Fostering Network, an established charity in the sector, noted in January 2016 there was a national shortfall of 9,070 foster carers.
Fostering services, whether they be independent or public sector, should focus on encouraging new families to come forward to fill the shortage that Fostering Network has identified; poaching from each other is not the way nor is it ethical. Any provider, irrespective of being independent or public sector should abide by a professional ‘no poaching’ code, and, if this is not practicable then we would support the Government taking a stance to outlaw this.
Foster Carers have the right to be registered with whichever Agency or Service they choose and base that choice on the support and training they receive from their selected provider. There is little or no comparable and validated evidence in terms of cost differentials between independent and public provision, but there is evidence of a difference in the service levels to carer households and also the regulatory outcomes of all providers that are a matter of public record.
The continual public outbursts between organisations about who should be able to do ‘what and how’ are becoming extremely tiresome. Children’s services is a highly regulated service and one that is continually in the public eye and my suggestion to all those battling it out in the media today is that it would be better if they focused their efforts and attention on the vulnerable children and young people that we are here to support and forget their personal profiles.