Report of the Strategic Director, Care Wellbeing and Learning.
Committee received a report on Gateshead’s Fostering Service outlining performance over the last 12 months.
Committee was advised that payment for skills scheme continues which supports the best possible Foster Carers to meet the needs of children and young people. Over half of placements (51%) of placements were requested as emergencies, this figure is similar to previous years.
It was reported that there is not always a lot of spare capacity for emergency placements, this is due to an aging population of Foster Carers which is a challenge across the region. The Marketing and Recruitment Officer is currently working with Corporate Communications to develop a range of ways of encouraging new Foster Carers. More community based resources are being used, for example attendance at local food markets, as well as a lot of digital marketing. The most successful channels with which to promote foster caring in Gateshead has been through the Council’s website, radio adverts, Council News, leaflet drops and local press as well as bridge banners, however this is no longer allowed due to health and safety reasons. It was noted that Facebook is becoming a more popular way of advertising. The aim is to recruit 30 new Foster Carers this year. Committee was advised that as a local authority we offer very good support and a lot of Foster Carers choose Gateshead as they are aware of the quality of training and support offered.
It was questioned what causes potential Foster Carers to drop out of the assessment process early. It was explained that sometimes they realise it is not right for them as a family. During the initial visit the social worker will explore their reasons for wanting to foster and give them further information on what is entailed, this can initially discourage people. Pre-approval training is also carried out followed by assessment and once passed they are referred through to Panel. It was noted that there is an eight month timescale to get to Fostering Panel.
Committee queried what training has to be undertaken. It was confirmed that all Foster Carers must do standard training within 12 months, depending on the level of Foster Care depends on the number of courses required. It was also noted that for certain Foster Carers specific training will be identified around the needs of a child in their care.
It was questioned what type of issues would make a potential Foster Carer unsuitable. This would include such things as non-disclosure of an offence, attitude and value base. Committee was advised that it can be very individual and is about the assessor and how they assess whether the skills will transfer to foster caring.
Committee questioned how those Foster Carers who are dealing with challenging young people are supported. It was noted that all Foster Carers undergo robust assessments and are supervised on a monthly basis so that any concerns can be dealt with immediately. Action plans can also be put in place where there are concerns. Standard of care meetings are also held to ensure Foster Carers are meeting standards.
RESOLVED - That the Committee noted the report.