Agenda item

Fostering service update

Paul Rudd, Residential Care Service Manager will provide a service update.


The Chair welcomed Susie Turner, service manager- Fostering to the meeting, who was in attendance to provide a service update to the Board.


The service manager first outlined that since January 2023, there had been significant changes within the service. On 25 January 2023,  the Foster carers fee increase was approved. Since then, the new finance policy has been written and signed off and a new foster carer agreement document created. Two meetings have taken place with carers to launch the new offer, which has coincided with a marketing strategy.


The service manager also advised that the Government had published a review on kinship care, looking at whether kinship carers should be provided with the same support (including financially) as foster parents. The board would be updated if an agreement was made.


Since the new foster carer offer had been agreed, the board learnt that:


       8 families are undergoing assessment with panel dates booked

       3 application forms have been received.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

       5 initial visits have been booked

       There were 3 active enquiries

       Foster carers from Independent fostering agencies (IFAs) had enquired about transferring back to Middlesbrough.

The offer means that more Middlesbrough children can stay in Middlesbrough and Carers are feel valued and most importantly more placement stability.


Carers will be held accountable for keeping their training, skills and knowledge up to date.


Success stories since the offer was introduced have been as follows:


       5 carers who planned to transfer to an IFA are going to stay with Middlesbrough. These carers have 14 children between them.

       The annual cost of these children in an IFA would be £669,000. Some of these children are long term matched.

       We have recruited a resource worker and 2 fostering social workers permanently.

       IFAs and other Local Authorities have expressed that Middlesbrough have set a new standard for valuing and rewarding carers. This is attracting regional attention.

The service manager also outlined that since the fee increase, 4 carers have been able to give up work to provide further support and placements to Middlesbrough children. Between them they have offered 6 bedrooms, and some are able to take sibling groups. Within the fee increase, these placements and invaluable foster carers would have been lost.


She advised that as of 21.2.2023, there were 164 children placed in house with foster carers. This was a cost of £61,000 per week. There were still 158 children placed with IFA and this was currently costing the Council £130k per week. It was hoped that this new offer would mean more carers from IFAS would enquire to transfer back.


Finally the service manager outlined the plans going forward including:


       Bringing more children back in-house from IFAs – regular meetings with commissioning to look at this

       Increase recruitment activity at key events, information evenings etc.

       share children's referrals with carers who are near approval to start the matching process earlier

       Focused recruitment on carers who want to do long term fostering

       plan to deliver more training in house by our Social Workers to cut the costs of outside training and have more control over the content and regularity

       plan to develop a children who foster group for the children of foster carers, so that we can include and value them


       Include unregulated connected carers in our training offer to be ahead of the anticipated changes that the kinship care review will bring

Following the presentation, the panel did raise some concern that this offer had not been looked at previously, however regardless of this, were proud of the offer and what this would mean for Middlesbrough’s children. The board heard that the offer does include goods as this is within the finance policy and mileage was also included.


A member outlined that she has attended a foster carers group and there has been some concern regarding a payment. The service head outlined that it was an interim cost of living payment that was paid to all mainstream carers with children between December 2022 and the point the new financial offer was approved.


A board member also enquired about foster carers for children from BME communities, and the service manager advice that there were a number of children placed and this had also been included within the marketing campaign.


Lastly, board members were invited to attend the Foster carer event on 10 March 2023 in the Crypt and to be panel members of Family placement planning. Further information on both would be circulated to the Board.


AGREED- That the information be noted.