Headlines: February 12th, 2009

Privately fostered children are still not getting the protection they deserve, according to Ofsted’s Chief Inspector. Christine Gilbert told delegates to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering conference that there were too many local authorities whose arrangements for private fostering were inadequate.

The Chief Inspector told the conference that she recognised improvements had been made by some authorities, but that it could not be right that a quarter of authorities had made very little progress. This is despite all the emphasis on the vulnerability of privately fostered children, dating back to the Utting Report in the 1990s and through the Victoria Climbie Enquiries and Lord Laming’s report.

“This is a disappointing position and the number of inadequate authorities continues to be far too high,” she said and added, “Those of us here today know that this group of children have not received the protection they deserve and their needs have been neglected for too long.” She said the first round of Ofsted inspections of private fostering had found councils were at varying stages in implementing their duties under the Children Act 2004 and the National Minimum Standards.

There had been improvements in how information was communicated on the duties of agencies, parents and private foster carers to notify authorities about private fostering arrangements. Inspectors, however, had concerns about the identification of children and found that it was not known how many privately fostered children there may be.

Ofsted is recommending that each local authority should conduct a regular review and learn from good practice elsewhere and that there should be support for national awareness raising campaigns. It also wants to see national research to understand the current position and the range of needs and agreement on arrangements for further inspections after March.