Last week saw the launch of the Local Authority Fostering Service Benchmark 2012/13 which is based on research carried out as part of a Department for Education funded project by ourselves and the Fostering Network. The report picked up coverage in CYPNow and Community Care amongst others.
The research found that:
- On average 11 per cent of those who enquired about becoming a foster carer were approved (ranging from just 1 per cent to 37 per cent across local authorities);
- Only 75 per cent of those who completed preparation training chose to continue with the assessment, and in only 71 per cent of these cases did the fostering service also agree to continue the assessment. Only 62 per cent of those who continued the assessment following preparation training actually went on to become approved as foster carers;
- The average time taken for someone to progress from enquiry to becoming a foster carer was 281 days (ranging from 49 to 518);
- On average, local authorities fail to utilise 31 per cent of their foster care places (ranging from a very high vacancy rate of 68 per cent to just 5 per cent). While it is important to have some vacancies for placement choice, having an average of 31 per cent of places unused is very high. The average vacancy rate in the independent sector is also high at 39 per cent (Ofsted data, 2011-12).
This work is important for a couple of key reasons. Number one, in spite of downward spending pressure there is now a greater long term certainty in the top line of government funding for councils and there is the potential for extra support being provided given the importance Whitehall places on this agenda the timing is perfect for a significant shift in fostering and adoption services. Number two, the results were quite variable showing us that there is significant room to make improvements that will deliver tangible service and financial benefits.
The Fostering Services Benchmark Report, 2012/13 is available at http://www.fostering.net/recruitment-and-retention