Improving care cannot wait
8 Aug 2019
Responding to Call 7 from Fiona Duncan, Sara Lurie says the Care Review is doing incredibly important work but it must not be used as a substitute for action now
Call 7: Support the aims and work of the Care Review – making changes to improve care now and in future
It is a credit to the Care Review, and Fiona Duncan’s leadership, that it has been shaped by more than 1,000 people with experience of care in Scotland. We must continue to listen to those who have lived in fostering households (care experienced young people, foster carers and their children) to make sure they lead the improvements to the system that we know are so badly needed.
The Fostering Network echoes Fiona’s call to put children’s relationships at the heart of children’s social care. When a child moves on from a foster family, whether that is to a new foster carer, to adoption, to live with birth family or elsewhere, it is essential they are supported to maintain their relationships. That’s why we launched our Keep Connected principles earlier this year; we are urging all local authorities and fostering services in Scotland to sign up to them and to make sure they support children to keep in touch with everyone important in their lives.
We would also endorse Fiona’s call for aftercare that is designed around each individual young person. When Continuing Care was introduced in 2015 it marked an important step in fulfilling local authorities’ responsibility to give young people in their care the best start to adulthood. However, urgent action is needed to make sure that the promise of Continuing Care becomes a reality for more young people. Our research has shown that young people are still having to move out before they are ready and missing out on support that could help them thrive in their education and at the beginning of their career. It is vital that Continuing Care is made available to every young person that needs it, and that the Scottish Government provides proper funding for the scheme.
We are looking forward to seeing the findings of the Care Review and their subsequent impact on care in the future. However, we are concerned that its introduction has had the unintended consequence of preventing change in key areas regarding fostering that either did not need to be wrapped up in the review or, indeed, are perhaps not even being considered by the review. The long-term aims of the care review mustn’t undermine the change that is needed now. As Fiona Duncan rightly acknowledges in her call, supporting the aims and work of the care review means taking action now, as well as responding to the review’s findings when they are published.
For example, every day Scotland’s children are being short-changed by a system that allows drastically different foster care allowances depending on where a child lives. In some areas foster carers are having to dig into their own pockets or see the children in their care go without. In our most recent survey, six in 10 foster carers say that the allowance – the money they are given to spend on a child they are fostering – does not meet the full costs; despite years of campaigning and a promise from the Scottish Government that is now over 10 years old, there is still no minimum allowance for children in foster care in Scotland. We are calling on the Scottish Government and CoSLA to introduce a national minimum allowance covering the full cost of caring for a child, to end this disparity without delay.
Another issue that does not need to wait until the end of the care review is the publication of the Scottish Government’s guidance on decision-making. Our recent survey showed that nearly one third of foster carers are not clear what day-to-day decisions they have the authority to make. It also showed that when carers do not have decision-making authority, social workers are not always responding in a timely manner to requests that require their input. This is having a direct impact on children who can end up missing out on experiences or being treated differently to their peers. The draft guidance should be finalised, published, promoted and implemented immediately.
The Care Review is doing important work to change care for the future, and we back Fiona Duncan’s call, but it must not be used as a substitute for action now.
Sara Lurie is Director of the Fostering Network Scotland. She is responding here to Call 7 by Fiona Duncan, Chair of the Independent Care Review in Scotland