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Foster care review

Progress update – December 2016

A Foster Care Review Implementation Reference Group, chaired by Sandra Paterson (also chair of the Foster Care Review), have been overseeing progress on the recommendations from the Review.  They met on 22 August 2014, 26 March 2015, 19 June 2015, 9 October 2015 and finally on 24 November 2016.

Here's a brief update on each of the recommendations:

R1. Placement Descriptors

A short life working group, chaired by Marjory Booth of the Care Inspectorate met on 18 August 2014, 23 September 2014, 29 October 2014 and 2 February 2015. The Group concluded their discussions and have agreed five foster placement descriptors along with explanatory notes.  

The Care Inspectorate has incorporated the new foster care placement descriptors into their 2016/17 annual returns and local authorities are working towards implementing these into care planning and local data collection systems. The final placement descriptors were endorsed by the  Reference Group at their meeting of 26 March 2015.
Read the final placement descriptors with explanatory notes

R2. Database Alternatives

A short life working group, chaired by Willie Evans of JMT Fostering explored Alternative Strategies to a Foster Carer Database. The Group met on 3 October 2014, 3 November 2014 and 23 January 2015 and discussions followed two key themes: Safety of Children and Finding Places for Children

Options explored included capturing more detailed information in relation to foster carer de-registrations and improved placement matching. The Group have concluded their discussions and a final report was endorsed by the Reference Group at their meeting of 26 March 2015.
Read the final report from the Database Alternatives group

R3. Placement Limits

Scottish Government laid in Parliament an amendment to The Looked after Children (Scotland) Regulations to introduce a maximum foster care placement limit of three unrelated children with exemptions for sibling groups and emergency placements. The amendment Regulations came into force on 29 December 2014.
Read more about the amendment

This means that since 29 December 2014 the law does not allow any new foster care placement to accommodate more than three unrelated looked after children. The new law does not apply to placements that were functioning successfully prior to that date.   The Scottish Government would welcome hearing about any issues that arise as a result of this change.

It has come to our attention that a further small technical amendment will need to be undertaken to fully capture the inntetion of the recommendation with reagrd to exemptions.  This will be process in the early months of 2017.

R4. Learning and Development Framework

In July 2014 the Scottish Government commissioned Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to develop a learning and development framework for foster carers in Scotland. A large scoping exercise was undertaken to capture existing qualifications and learning and development opportunities already available to foster carers and to seek foster carer and foster care agency views about what the content of a learning and development framework for foster carers in Scotland should include.

A Strategic Group met on 17 November 2014, 15 January 2015 and 17 March 2015 to discuss the findings of the scoping exercise and to develop a draft technical standard. A Technical Group with representatives from the foster care sector supported the development of the Standard. SSSC presented a final draft of the Standard and a final report to the Reference Group at their meetings of 26 March and 19 June 2015. 

SSSC ran a consultation between 16 May and 30 September 2016 on the draft Standard and implementation.  In total 162 responses were received, 24 from organisations and the rest from individuals, mainly foster carers. SSSC were impressed with the response rate which showed real engagement and interest, especially from foster carers. As well as the online consultation, staff from the Scottish Social Services Council also travelled around the country to meet staff and foster carers and held two small webinars. In total 170 people engaged “face to face” with almost half of those being foster carers. The SSSC received a host of comments designed to improve the draft Standard. They are planning to publish a summary report in the coming weeks.

R5. Foster Care Allowances

We undertook research on foster care allowances which analysed methodologies used across the UK on how levels of fostering allowances are reached.
Read the Research Report analysing current methodologies

A legal challenge in 2015 to Scottish local authorities by the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the need for parity to be reached between children living in kinship and foster carer meant that we then needed to plot a longer term course to revising allowances for children living in both foster and kinship care. We have plans to invite representation from across the sector to form a National Review Group to represent the needs of children and young people living in those care settings.  The First Minister's announcement in October about a review of care has presented an opportunity to ensure that our plans for a review of allowances are aligned with the intentions of the Care Review.  Discussions between Ministers and policy officials are underway with further announcements expected later this month.  We are unlikely to be in a position to take forward the allowances review until early 2017.

R6. Foster Care Fees

This recommendation related to fees for foster caring and is a matter for local authorities to take forward.

The 2016 programme of work has focussed on progressing a Learning and Development Framework for foster carers and making plans for a review of allowances for children living in foster and kinship care.

Background

A National Review of Foster Care was completed in 2013, with a final report and six recommendations for improvement in:

  • Placement descriptors
  • National foster carer database
  • Placement limits
  • Learning and development
  • Allowances
  • Fees

The Scottish Government issued its response in January 2014 agreeing to take forward work on each of the recommendations.