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Council Hopes to Move Children from Homes into Foster Families

Published on: 2 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 3 Mar, 2022

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey County Council is aiming to move more looked after vulnerable children living in residential children’s homes into foster families.

The authority believes joining the Big Fostering Partnership, which helps to recruit foster carers, will allow it to get around 22 children out of homes into long-term foster placements by January 2024, giving those children better outcomes in life.

At the end of last year, Surrey had 140 of its 1,080 looked after children in regulated residential placements including children’s homes, residential schools, care homes, parenting assessment units and secure units.

Cllr Chris Townsend (Ashtead Independent, working with Ashtead Residents), vice-chair of the Children and Families Select Committee, said: “We’re finding it very difficult to get foster parents in Surrey.

“Any organisation we can join that’s trying to improve foster care can only be a positive thing.”

The authority says this could also reduce its children’s services placement budget by £5million over the next four years, since residential provision is more than three times the price of a step-down foster placement – on average a £3,200 difference every week.

Conservative councillor Clare Curran, cabinet member for Children and Families, said homes “can offer intensive, specialist support for young people who need it” but after that period of support, the children should “step-down” into a foster family.

She told the SCC Cabinet last week: “We’re really keen to develop this practice in Surrey, and we feel that the best option that is available is to work with an external partner with a track record in this area to embed step-down practice in Surrey and scale up our own capacity quickly.

“This will also provide an opportunity to learn what works well and prepare the future development of our own in-house option.”

Cabinet agreed to join the Big Fostering Partnership, which brings together the expertise of the UK’s biggest fostering agency – the National Fostering Group – with a number of local authorities and sustain their foster placements for two years.

The council has a statutory duty to secure enough accommodation in the local area to meet the needs of Surrey children.

A report to cabinet last week from Rachael Wardell, executive director for Children, Families and Lifelong Learning, said the council had made progress on this during 2021/22.

But at the end of 2021 only 54 per cent of children were placed within Surrey. Two-thirds were within 20 miles of the county.

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Responses to Council Hopes to Move Children from Homes into Foster Families

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    March 3, 2022 at 8:17 am

    I commend The Dragon for reporting this issue.

    The Public does not know or hear enough about it.

    If it did, it would be shocked and appalled at the way government agencies treat vulnerable children.

    Editor’s comment: This is a BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporter Service (LDRS) report which we were pleased to publish.

  2. Fiona Davidson Reply

    March 4, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    Sadly this is another example of the gulf between what Surrey County Council says, and what it does. The Surrey Foster Carers’ Association has pointed out that by comparison with a number of neighbouring authorities, such as Hampshire, West Sussex and Windsor and Maidenhead, Surrey pays lower allowances (and sometimes significantly lower) to its foster carers, as well as providing less support. The result is that we end up sending more children out of the county than we should (by a long way), which is not desirable, and SCC, in any case, ends up paying for more expensive provision. We’re outsourcing at a higher cost.

    Being a foster carer can be extremely demanding and challenging and it’s 24/7. Foster carers aren’t doing it for the money, but no wonder we send more children out of Surrey if we so undervalue our in-county foster carers.

    Fiona Davidson is a R4GV county councillor for Guildford South East.

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