Agenda item

Agenda item

Fostering Service Annual Report 2022-2023

Report of the Strategic Director (Children and Education Services)


This report sets out what the Fostering Service has achieved over the past year and what its priorities are for the coming year.



The Committee considered a report of the Strategic Director (Children and Education Services) which set out what the Fostering Service had achieved over the past year and what its priorities were for the coming year.


Key points and themes in the report included:


·       Background information;

·       Successes for 2022-2023;

·       Main issues; and

·       Priority actions for 2023-24.


The Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People reported that there was an improving picture in relation to fostering and he highlighted the role of Councillors in promoting fostering.


Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:


·       Whether there were any particular communities where there was a shortage of foster carers;

·        That some people were wary about the process to become a foster carer and how long it took;

·       The management of allegations against foster carers, including allegations which were found to be unsubstantiated;

·       Trauma-informed training;

·       Roll-out of the Mockingbird Model;

·       Placement stability; and

·       Sharing experiences of being a foster carer.


The Service Lead (Fostering) informed Members that at present 18% of children in care were Black (including Black African, Black Caribbean and Black British) and 10% of foster carers (excluding kinship carers) were Black so this was the main group from which more foster carers needed to be recruited.  In response to a further question, she reported that housing was a significant barrier, particularly for kinship carers and people in central Manchester, including many black families, and that her service was looking at ways to address this.  She acknowledged that trust of government institutions was also an issue in some communities and reported that her service was working to build relationships with those communities and help them to understand the process.  She reported that her service took a trauma-informed approach across its work but also offered specific trauma-informed training.  She informed Members that the first Mockingbird Constellation had been launched in south Manchester and that work was taking place to develop the next one in north Manchester, after which one would be developed in central Manchester.  In response to a Member’s question she reported that a lot of preparatory work had taken place to prepare for the refugees from Ukraine but that, as yet, no children from Ukraine had required fostering services.  She informed Members that the process to become a foster carer took on average 12 weeks, stating that the service carried out regular information evenings for people interested in fostering and would be happy to come and speak to any groups that Members suggested.  A Member stated that he would speak to officers outside of the meeting to arrange this.


The Assistant Director (Provider Services) advised Members that the process for recruiting foster carers needed to be rigorous to ensure that the people coming forward had the right motivation for fostering. 


A Member shared her personal experiences of being in foster care and the impact of this.  She emphasised the importance of having a rigorous process to recruit the right people and thanked officers for the work they did to improve the experience of children in foster care.  She expressed concern that some of the recruitment advertisements for foster carers could give a false impression of fostering, glossing over the challenges involved.


The Assistant Director (Provider Services) acknowledged the Member’s point about advertisements.  She drew Members’ attention to the Fostering Unfiltered campaign across Greater Manchester which depicted the reality of fostering, although she stated that this had not produced the response that had been wanted and that the Greater Manchester local authorities would be working together further on this campaign.  She stated that her service had worked hard on ensuring that foster carers understood how children with significant trauma communicated.  She reported that only 8% of the children were in residential care, rather than living in families, which compared favourably to other local authorities.


The Assistant Director (Provider Services) explained the process for managing allegations against foster carers, differentiating between allegations of abuse and practice concerns. She stated that allegations of abuse were referred to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and that a Strategy Meeting would take place, attended by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).  She reported that allegations were investigated to establish whether they were substantiated, that foster carers were provided with independent support during the process and that the safety of the child was central to decision-making, including whether it was safe for them to remain with the foster carer.  She acknowledged the impact on foster carers who were subject to unsubstantiated allegations but stated that not many foster care arrangements broke down because of this, as foster carers received training to understand the impact of trauma on the child they were caring for, and that most foster carers who experienced this felt supported.  She reported that a small number of foster carers had been deregistered.  She advised that it was important to take seriously anything that a child reported or that another professional raised as a concern and that, from the training they received, foster carers understood that this was a necessary process.


The Strategic Director (Children and Education Services) reported that his service had increased its family group conferencing approach, supporting children in their families and suggested that the Committee might want to consider a report on this at a future meeting.  He recognised the importance of placement stability for the well-being of children in foster care and stated that the Mockingbird Model was a key part of this, enabling foster carers to support one another.  He also highlighted the importance of family-based care, which provided a better environment for children that the large children’s homes which used to be commonplace.


The Assistant Director (Provider Services) reported that the number of children who had had three or more moves was monitored and reported to the Department for Education (DfE) and that this year that figure had decreased from 10.4% to 9.6%.


The Chair informed Members about the improvement journey that Children’s Services had been on since 2014, when it had been judged to be inadequate by Ofsted, and she welcomed that the service had significantly improved and was now judged to be good, while advising that there was always more that could be done.  She reported that housing was a challenging issue which prevented people from becoming foster carers and advised that, where this was the case, it should be addressed at a ward level so that Ward Councillors could assist with resolving issues and she suggested that this could include moving them into Band 1 for housing priority.  She highlighted that MP Andrew Gwynne had been raising issues relating to kinship carers in Parliament.  She recognised the work of Alonzi House to keep children out of care.  She also commented on the age profile of foster carers and the future implications of this.


The Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People reported that Children’s Services now worked closely with Housing in a way which it had not done previously, and which did not happen in a lot of other local authorities.  He reported that all Looked After Children were classed as Band 1, as were foster carers, and that discussions were taking place about how some housing could be made available in cases where housing was a barrier to people becoming foster carers.  He informed Members that the Council was using guidance from a national lobby group on kinship carers to assess how it was doing and ways it could improve in relation to this group.




1.             To note the progress and impact being achieved by the Fostering Service in Manchester and the goals set out for 2023-24 with regard to:


·       Recruiting more foster carers, and carers who meet our children’s cultural needs.

·       Retaining the right foster carers and supporting them to ‘stick with’ our children and provide them with stable and loving homes.

·       Developing our kinship offer to ensure our families and communities are offered the right support to care for the children in their networks and to provide them with a permanent home.


2.             To additionally recognise the importance of ensuring sufficient provision of housing to enable families to care for these children.

Supporting documents: