Permanent homes for all children in care

Fostering through Social Enterprise (FtSE) and the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP) are urging the Government to support all children in care to secure a permanent home without delay.

Separating out different routes to permanence is unhelpful to children and those who care for them. It is the outcome for the child, not the legal order they are placed under, that is crucial.

The care system in England continues to fail too many children who come into public care. We welcome Government efforts to improve pathways to adoption and post adoption support. What is now needed is an equal commitment to other forms of permanence affecting the majority of children in care including returning to birth family, kinship care, long term fostering, and special guardianship orders (SGO) alongside adoption.

We are calling for a fresh approach to ensure that all children receive a stable and loving home regardless of their circumstances. FtSE and NAFP think this can be achieved through making the system more child-centred by:

  1. Ensuring the legislative and regulatory framework puts achieving permanence at its heart. There is no excuse for multiple placements, permanency, in whichever form it takes, must be achieved as soon as possible in each individual case. Existing separate legislation should be brought together to reflect a new coordinated system for children.
  2. Establishing integrated permanence services in all local authority areas. The same team would then be responsible for all permanency assessments (be they SGO, fostering, adoption, kinship care or return home) and all post permanency support. It is vital that all permanency families can access high quality, timely and non-judgemental support to safeguard the placement. Placement breakdown is toxic to children.
  3. Introducing a national practice and professional skills permanence framework. The social work skills required to assess and support permanency are different from those required to assess and manage risk in a child protection context. Permanency must be supported by the best and most appropriate workforce.
  4. Making the system more child-centred and putting children’s needs ahead of those of local authorities and agencies including short term costs savings and the multitude of processes and administrative requirements. This will mean a much higher degree of separation between social work assessment and planning on the one hand, and commissioning, financing and provision of services on the other.
  5. Introduce a single national data set incorporating information about children subject to different permanence options local authorities and other permanence service providers, both statutory and independent. This should be outcomes, not process, focussed and concentrate on key indicators such as the number of placement moves and educational achievement.
  6. Creating a National Child Permanence Board to support and challenge local or regional Child Permanence Boards therefore ensuring committed and dedicated leadership at every level, and enabling Government to continue to set overall strategy for permanence for children in care.