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Jeremy Cooper

A Response: Fostering Futures and The Debate It Has Created

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It’s great that our Fostering Futures report has started a debate.

We always write with this in mind and as such do so knowing that at least a few will disagree. People will have different points of view based on their own experiences and interests and we are more than happy to share and discuss evidence.

One of the findings that we have found is that in-house fostering is cheaper than using independent fostering agencies. This is consistent in 15 councils where we have undertaken detailed analysis including apportionment of staff costs and overheads. There are also similar reports directly from local authorities we have not worked with but who state as such in their own cabinet papers. Our work has been reviewed by multiple council finance departments and the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University who were members of a reference group for the Family Values programme.

Harvey Gallagher, and others representing the interests of independent fostering providers have responded with an understandably different view. Some representing private fostering agencies specifically argue – that in-house fostering is more expensive. We have heard this assertion a number of times. Unfortunately, throughout all of our research, we haven’t managed to find any evidence for this view in the places where we have worked. We would be delighted to collaboratively share research to see if all of those 15 we have worked in happen to be completely unrepresentative.

We have been in touch with Harvey and look forward to reviewing his evidence for the counter-assertion.

We very much welcome the on-going debate.

In the focus on the numerical and statistical evidence, we also hope that the central message of the cultural change in fostering and relationships with foster carers isn’t missed. The point about the finances, whilst being important, was only a fraction of what is a wide ranging report that predominantly focuses on how better involvement, recruitment and relationships with foster carers right across the sector can be achieved. This is something we passionately believe in and I trust all involved in the discussion agree on.

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