A raft of improvements have been announced today from the government to support vulnerable children and young people to remain cared for within their family networks where possible and where not, to increase the availability of foster homes through recruitment of and increased support to foster parents.
The Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy will provide £200 million of funding over the next two years to implement transformative systems which aim to prevent families finding themselves in crisis by focusing on more early support. By recognising relationships, stability and love are the core components of children and young people having the best possible outcomes and focusing resources on early intervention, the strategy aims to keep families together, and use best practice models which will be piloted in 12 local authorities.
For those children and young people who are unable to the government has announced an increased package of financial support to foster carers to meet the increasing costs of caring for a child to ensure their needs are met, including an above-inflation increase in the fostering allowances, and a £25 million investment in a national recruitment and retention programme, with a focus on local need in recognition this differs across the country.
Training and support for kinship carers and special guardians is allocated £9 million under the new plans and consideration will be given to providing financial support to them through a new type of allowance, employee entitlements and provision of legal aid.
There will be an increased prioritisation of ensuring children in care live in homes close to their family, friends, communities and schools, supported by a £30 million investment
in family finding, befriending and mentoring initiatives to support children in care and care leavers to find and maintain loving relationships.
Recognition that care leavers need further support both financially, emotionally and practically with their transition into adulthood is built into the strategy with the announcement that the leaving care allowance will increase from £2,000 to £3,000 from April this year, above inflation. For care leavers undertaking apprenticeships, there will be an increase to the bursary available from £1000 to £3,000.
Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho, said, “Children in care deserve the same love and stability as everyone else. Yet we’ve seen from the two tragic murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson that more needs to be done to protect our most vulnerable children. Our wide-ranging reforms will put strong relationships at the heart of the care system. From supporting our brilliant foster carers, kinship carers and social workers to getting early help to families and improving children’s homes, we want every child to get the support and protection they need.”
As part of the above reforms the government has opened a consultation on a national framework which sets out the outcomes that children’s social care should achieve, and our expectations for what leaders and practitioners in local authorities should do. It will be supported by the dashboard, which will become a routine data publication. There is also a consultation regarding strengthening the child and family social work workforce to support the strategy.
FosterTalk welcomes the announcements made today, despite the funding attached to the strategy being well below the recommended £2 billion the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care called for. We will continue to work to support kinship and foster carers, special guardians, fostering services and the wider sector in their dedicated and tireless efforts to improve the lives of children and young people who require their care, love and support and work with the government to ensure issues affecting our stakeholders remain on the agenda. We would like to offer our sincere thanks to the many young people, Carers, professionals and partner organisations who have supported our recent research and awareness-raising work on the Cost of Living and support issues for fostering and kinship families.
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You can read more about the strategy and consultations by clicking the link below, where there is also a children and young people’s guide accessible.