Children's Social Care Inquiry

Children's Social Care Inquiry


The government’s children’s social care implementation strategy, Stable Homes, Built on Love, released in February 2023, includes: How effective the strategy has been so far, and how effective it is projected to be in the long-term?

At present the feedback from foster carers is there has been no perceptible change since the Better Homes Built on Love strategy was introduced, rather we are seeing and hearing the continuum of the downward trend, more carers leaving, and thinking of leaving, than joining.

Much would be solved, in our view, by one thing, a first-class foster carer workforce/community, one equipped to meet the diverse needs of every looked-after child and young person in a skilled, qualified, trauma-informed and loving family environment. There would also be cost savings as foster care is considerably less expensive (even properly remunerated) than many of its counterparts.

Fundamentally, a foster carer sector that understands the trauma underlying children’s behaviours, who works with birth families, and keeps them connected with siblings and others who are important to them, becomes a safe and secure base so children can engage fully in education. In homes where their identity and cultural heritage are understood, and families that remain ‘home’ as they not so much ‘leave care’ but move into interdependence, surrounded by love and support, able to thrive in the world.

So how do we get there from here?

The overriding factor we see with Better Homes Built on Love is an absence of fundamental foundations and groundwork. Below we set out those foundations as we see them from our unique perspective and experience. The problems that could easily be solved but are currently overlooked and the solutions they would lead to.

We also feel Better Homes Built on Love is missing a fundamental opportunity to listen and learn directly from the most untapped resource fostering has, the foster carers themselves as no meaningful data has ever been collected or collated; something that would be exponentially instructive and lead to solutions.


The reasons behind the rising cost of children’s social care for local authorities, and ways to mitigate this.

There are insufficient foster carers to meet the needs of children and young people in care, there are also insufficient foster carers who are trained and experienced in meeting the needs of highly traumatised children, more are leaving and fewer are joining.

This often results in residential options when there are no foster placements or more costly independent agency use.


No one leaves fostering or doesn’t sign up because of the children, the system is invariably the reason.

Of the 1036 foster carers who took part in the FosterWiki survey in 2023, 54% of those questioned have said they have or are considering giving up fostering.

Here are some issues we feel are pertinent to retention and need addressing:

The BHBL document claims it wants

“A system that continuously learns and improves and makes better use of evidence and data”

Yet we see so little evidence of this. All negative feedback, however constructive, to the government, LA’s, agencies, and consultancy firms, is knocked back quickly and ignored, dismissed as a ‘couple’ of unhappy carers when this is very far from the case and borne out by retention and recruitment figures.

Our LA set up a group for the ‘Retention and Support’ of foster carers. Which I was attending but was told by the social worker running it that it was felt that ‘I wasn’t the right fit for the group at this time’ Apparently they want to focus on positive stories and channelling ideas as a ‘collective’ rather than discussing/acknowledging the issues that are causing carers to leave. There are only 2 other foster carers in the group and one of those has also been told that they are focusing too much on the negative. The head of the service attended one meeting and has been too busy to attend any more.

Data is needed from foster carers themselves. It needs to be collected independently not by those who have a conflict of interest, and by safe sources that give the foster carers the confidence to contribute. Only then will you get a clearer picture of where solutions are to be found?

Foster carers who are bought forward to speak are carefully chosen by various organisations, generally those who will promote their products and have a very narrow local view of fostering.

The help, support and outcomes have certainly not improved definitely not. I am seeing no change and my own personal experience worsened. They do not listen to foster carers and they cause more attachment issues and unnecessary stress that could massively be avoided if they took on board the foster carers concerns. Some bad practices I have witnessed leave me speechless at times traumatising and I'm an adult so imagine what the children feel!

There remains an unhealthy disconnect between the top and the front line, when you hear directors/CEOs/government speak on foster care it seems to have little grounded in the reality of daily delivery of services and outcomes for children. When our FosterWiki Care Experienced Group speak there is a huge divide between their experiences and their service’s narrative.

The first rise in tax allowances after 19yrs and the recent uplift in children’s allowances was welcome, however, it does not go far enough and there is still great disparity around the country between local authorities, and between agencies, some foster carers reported not having the allowance lifts passed on. Levelling up is important, but we must level up, not down (as often happens in foster care) or we will simply lose more foster homes.

Costs just keep on rising for carers expectations on what we are told we should be providing the children/ young people with have increased but payments haven’t. Young people are told by their social workers that we should be providing them with iPhones, iPads, & Laptops. We are told we should not be using second-hand equipment and that everything needs to be new, sporting memberships, equipment, and clothing, as well as school trips, equipment and uniforms, the prices for all of these, have increased dramatically but carer's payments haven’t” The virtual school won’t help towards the costs of laptops or iPads, and neither will the LA, but the majority of schoolwork is done online.

We have a child with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and mental health problems but don’t receive any extra support financially or otherwise. Caring for a child who is doubly incontinent and who is very destructive (picks holes in the plaster on walls, throws furniture, tears clothing, urinates on it, smears and needs washing done daily adds a lot of extra cost). That child’s school have recently sent information out on a school trip that is £600, there will be no extra help to pay for this, but the social worker has already told them they can go. When a baby we had been caring for recently returned to parents we were asked to supply a cot, bedding, cutlery, plates and even a ‘wardrobe’.

Working status – We need to find ways to give foster carers more security, improved working conditions and basic rights. We lag behind the rest of Europe in this regard.

The focus on Mockingbird is disproportionate, it is not a solution, just a small part of the solution. It has been in existence for 8 years and has only been a partial success, evidence of its success leaves out the many hubs that have failed. If it was going to be the panacea it is painted as then it would have been by now.

Whilst child protection is paramount it is widely known that the allegations system requires an overhaul. Systems like this are harmful when they are used to prevent foster carers from speaking out, advocating fully for children or highlighting opportunities for improvement. The unbalanced power of the allegations system has created a climate of fear and damages retention and recruitment.

When foster carers say they are not getting enough support this is often misconstrued into more coffee mornings or support groups. The thousands of foster carers we speak to will tell you meaningful support is the team around the child being enabled to fully carry out their roles, accessing and embedding the right services, working in a relational and multidisciplinary way, fully supporting them in their role and putting the child and the foster carer at the centre. It is paramount that we deliver robust support in this respect, those who translate ‘support’ into a cup of tea, bingo and a chat have never fostered.

Help and Support for the young people I care for is at an all-time low, a child I am matched long term with and has been with me 10 years is now on their 28th social worker. Only 2 of the social workers have ever said goodbye or told the young person or myself that they were leaving. One social worker we spent 2 months ringing, leaving messages and emailing only to be told that they had left 2 months previously. The social workers email addresses are not closed when they leave so emails continue to go through and the switchboard aren’t sure who is still working in the team when you call them.

There are ongoing underlying issues of carers being treated with little or no respect. We have our own buddy groups and WhatsApp groups run by carers now with social worker involvement, so people have left, so we try and support each other ways, but the biggest complaints we have is the total lack of communication, consistency, and transparency with what information is shared with us.


Traditionally the best recruiters of foster carers are carers themselves, therefore recruitment and retention are intrinsically linked. If you don’t take care of one you won’t get the other, and that is the underlying flaw in the current recruitment strategy.

54% of foster carers questioned in the 2022 FosterWiki survey said they have considered, or are considering, giving up fostering left with no alternative as working conditions, remuneration, treatment and their ability to support children further deteriorates.

There are a lot of foster carers leaving due to foster carers witnessing bad practices repeatedly and no one ever made accountable. Recruitment issues because under the current system it's so hard for foster carers to recommend fostering. So not enough placements now.

Recruitment of more foster carers is crucial to being able to place children in homes with carers that match their needs. There is no information in this plan or understanding in government about what it will take to reverse the trend of a declining and run-down workforce of carers. Mailing a plan and doing “stuff” with some “partners” has not created an available family home for my two teenagers who we took in on an emergency basis 6 weeks ago - and have nowhere to move to. How many foster carers can they identify who have been recruited in the last year - who would not have been recruited under existing systems - and how many have left in that same period? so - net gain?”


The fostering narrative remains unchanged despite the massive shift in the dynamics and makeup within 21st-century families and the modern socio-economic landscape.

We believe the outdated narrative that pervades, one of the altruistic ‘heroes volunteers’ that only need is a spare room is damaging and preventing large parts of the population from even considering its merits or seeing it as a serious alternative to current professions, with younger generations who inhabit a new modern space not seeing themselves in this role.

Marketing for foster carer recruitment remains unchanged despite its inefficacy, and from what we have seen and heard so far from the new Regional Recruitment Hubs there is nothing new here either, just a doubling down on what hasn’t worked before and still isn’t working.


Current processes are outdated and are damaging foster care, they are still based on a singular assessor model, one that works from one frame of reference and relies on half an hour of panel, with people who have never met the candidates before. They also take far too long, in reality often in excess of 8 months or more.

In 2022 there were 138,075 initial enquires into becoming a foster carer, 5670 (5%) went into assessment, 3925 candidates dropped out, shockingly 71% of those candidates withdrew themselves, and 1 in 3 of those newly approved foster carers will be de-registered within 12-18 months.

The ‘form f’ has somehow become embedded as the de-facto assessment tool, there are now new more modern alternatives that need considering.

Breakdown of Foster Carer Recruitment

Initial Enquires*

Candidates Assessed

Registered Foster Carers

* Initial Enquiries could also include first-contact telephone calls as well as applications


What are the recent trends and causes of out-of-area placements?

Our view is that a lack of available foster families in the area to meet the children’s needs means they are forced to move away.

This results in poorer outcomes for children with some living a long way from family, friends and school or being separated from their siblings. There are so few places for them that many end up in mismatched unsuitable settings, particularly residential, which leads to more breakdowns, moves and exacerbating trauma.

The lack of current foster carers in the area due to all the reasons we have stated is directly responsible for children being placed out of the area, bar a few where it is deemed appropriate to do so.


For some children and young people, residential is appropriate, but many in residential would thrive in the right family environment. However, this necessitates foster carers who are educated in trauma-informed care and every aspect of their role.

They need specialist support, from those whose experience is grounded in practice and front-line connection. They also need a more secure and protected working status as the risk of false allegations is much higher in this demographic.

Remuneration needs to be proportionate to the skills, qualifications and to intensity of engagement needed 24/7 to meet these children’s needs.

The lack of current foster carers in the area due to all the reasons we have stated is directly responsible for children being placed out of the area, bar a few where it is deemed appropriate to do so.


‘How combinations of kinship care, residential education, foster care and adoption could provide alternatives to residential care?’

By providing trauma-informed confident foster carers, fully equipped in every aspect of their roles, ready and qualified to meet the needs of a diverse range of children and young people in care.

The 3-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course used by the majority of services for new recruits has for a long time been recognised by many in the sector, including the Fostering Network, as inadequate to prepare new foster carers for the complex role ahead and it was only ever intended as an introduction to fostering.

The Social market foundation state: “Foster carers are not assessed by Ofsted and there is no national strategy for assessing whether their skills, qualifications and experience meet the needs of the range of children who need fostering” and go onto say it calls for an increased understanding of these figures and a better measurement of the relative effectiveness of public and private fostering providers.

Foster carers who have a higher degree of education and understanding, specifically around trauma-informed care, will be better equipped to support children and young people, especially those harder to place, with the abuse, neglect, separation and loss they have suffered.

This is the foundation on which you build Better Homes Built on Love.


The new Non-Profit National Foster Carers Qualifications (NFCQ), a groundbreaking new education and support pathway for foster carers developed to transform standards of foster care and outcomes for children, to elevate ambitions for our children beyond the basic ‘meeting needs’ to aspirational and to deliver long-term stability and loving family homes.”

The NFCQ (in accreditation) will provide a standardised benchmark and data to identify and assess the skill, qualifications and experience of foster carers able to meet the needs of the range of children who need fostering.