This week, Chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Caroline Selkirk, responded to the general elections pledges set out by the major parties with regards looked after children.
Below are the manifesto pledges of the parties, along with Caroline Selkirk’s responses.
The Labour Party: Supporting kinship care
Party Pledge: We will increase support for children in kinship (family and friends) care and their families, a group too often overlooked and undervalued.
BAAF Response: We have been campaigning alongside the Family Rights Group to raise the profile of kinship care, and we’d like to see a commitment from all parties to support kinship care. We are delighted that the Labour Party has taken this first step.
Kinship care is currently the Cinderella care option- kinship carers are not eligible for the same support as adopters or foster carers, and they are also penalised by the benefits system. For example, many have fallen foul of the spare room subsidy and availability to work rules. As a result, it is crucial that any additional support for kinship carers should enable free access to legal and advice services.
The Conservative Party: Regional Adoption Agencies
Party Pledge: We will introduce regional adoption agencies, working across local authority boundaries to match children with the best parents for them.
BAAF Response: Introducing regional adoption agencies would be a major change to the way in which adoption services are currently delivered. It is vital that any such reorganisation will focus on a child and their need for a family for life. We need to see greater clarity on these proposals.
At present there are nine Regional Adoption Boards reporting to the Adoption Leadership Board, who are focused on improving performance at a regional level. This is still a fairly new initiative and needs further time to become established.
We agree that there are benefits for children when local authorities work co-operatively, together with Voluntary Adoption Agencies in their region, to identify suitable matches for children in their care. There are already some well-established regional consortiums, where local authorities are developing new ways of working together and we would support further development of these models.
The Liberal Democrats: National adoption gateway and training for foster carers
Party Pledge: Continue to make it easier for children in care to find a loving home, through the national Adoption Register and the new national gateway for adoption, a first point of contact for potential adopters.
BAAF Response: Recent reforms to adoption have reduced delay in the time it takes for a child to be placed. However, for children from ethnic minority backgrounds, older children, those with a disability and sibling groups it is still a challenge to find the right match. The decision by the Liberal Democrats to maintain momentum on the current measures, like the Adoption Register, and the new national gateway for adoption, provide continuity and is welcome.
Party Pledge: Tackle delay and instability in foster care, with better support and training for foster carers, including on mental health issues.
BAAF Response: Providing better support and training for foster carers, and focussing on mental health issues will be essential to the development of foster care. A further step in the right direction would be a government commitment to driving forward best practice in the sector, ensuring increased support and funding of foster care, alongside the emphasis on support and training for both foster carers and social workers.
There are over 90,000 looked after children- that’s children in the care system in the UK. It is paramount that the next government provides appropriate support for these children and their carers. Any failure to do so risks condemning some of our countries’ most vulnerable children to an unstable and uncertain future.