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Councils’ cost cutting ‘jeopardises foster placements’

A report by the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) states that some councils are forcing foster carers to apply for special guardianship orders (SGOs), a more permanent form of placement that costs less money.

They also found evidence that local authorities were pressuring agency foster carers to move in-house so they are paid directly by the local authority.

It was a small survey of 19 foster parents but they found that there were cases where foster carers reported that social workers had told looked-after children living with them that their current care arrangements were too expensive. 

“It is evident from this survey that there is a small but significant number of cases, spread over a wide area, where children have had a stable and beneficial placement threatened for purely financial reasons,” the report states.

They believe that their study is the tip of a larger iceberg and that there has been a reluctance about bringing forward cases, for fear of damaging relationships with local authorities, and possible commercial detriment.

Carers also states that they were advised that if they didn’t move in-house or switch to a special guardianship arrangement the child would be moved. 

There were also claims that adoption plans were pursued for children even when they were settled in a long-term foster placement. 

Harvey Gallagher, NAFP chief executive, said: “This is similar to what we are hearing with our meetings with independent providers throughout the year. It is a small number of councils doing this, but they are spread out nationwide.  In some cases a special guardianship arrangement may be in the best interests of the child, but the fact remains that a foster carer will get less support from that and they are easier and cheaper for a council.”

The report also found that independent reviewing officers (IROs) too often failed to challenge councils around their placement decisions. 

They are calling on the DfE to set up a system of monitoring cases where concerns are raised that placement decisions may harm a child’s welfare.