June 22, 2021
The position taken by Josh MacAlister in his Case For Change and his engagement prior to his speedy initial findings is an odd one and a cause for alarm.
He describes foster care as the “bedrock” of the care system, while excluding the voices of all foster care organisations from the process, and including only a handful of localised voices who cannot speak for the experience of the whole country.
He talks about the need to improve recruitment and advertising while leaving the elephant sat firmly in the naughty corner of the room. Retention rates are abysmal. This is a well-known fact and the reasons behind this are also well known. However, Josh hasn’t even mentioned the fact that the total lack of protection and rights leads to a constant turnover of foster carers, damaging unnecessary moves for foster children and a merry go round of expensive recruitment drives to replace those lost.
He makes a big issue around “over reaching” social workers treating parents unfairly but fails completely to join the dots about similar issues which may be affecting unprotected foster carers who have no recourse to employment tribunals and are exempt for the basic legal duty of care afforded to the social care workforce.
There are some tokenistic references to better support and more respect, but these are meaningless lip service without a statutory framework to back them up.
This seems to be a classic case of avoiding a problem by offering unworkable “Big Society 2” solutions. Neighbours and community feature large in his report. Is the plan to make them “unofficial unpaid foster carers” without regulation, training and practical/financial support? Who will supervise these free foster carers? Who will ensure that that children are safe from harm?
Josh must do better. He must get to grips with the reasons behind the retention crisis in the “bedrock” of the care system and listen to organisations offering him real workable solutions.