I wonder if carer shortage is a myth ? As things don't add up !

(12 Posts)
childatheart Thu 11-Oct-12 21:22:12

I am very sceptical and confused here. In our LA back in July/August our lo's social worker said to us on a visit that the system is saturated and at bursting point with children coming into care, so much so that they are being placed with agencies as they do not have enough La carers and are losing them at an alarming rate. This seemed to fall inline with the national press reports and if you look at our local papers there are at least half a dozen foster agencies advertising for carers each week.

As we have additional room in our house our link worker asked the question were we prepared to decorate and utilise our spare room to facilitate more children, we agreed and kitted it out with beds, wardrobe, cabinet etc.

This was completed 2nd week of August, the result= absolutely nothing, no placements no nothing!!!!!!!!!!!

To say we are bemused is an understatement and when we ask any questions it is the same old " it's only a matter of time" answer. We also know other LA carers in our LA and neighbouring LA's who also are in a similar position and yet every week there are still at least half a dozen adverts in local press with agencies requiring carers and we still here of a carer shortage.

I am starting to think things are not as they appear !!

NanaNina Thu 11-Oct-12 23:49:17

I think the problem here is that there isn't a way of being able to forecast when children are going to be removed from home and needing foster care. It can often be a "feast or famine" situation. I do think though that the LA should have paid for kitting out the new room. The LA that I worked for (not as a foster carer but sw and tm mgr for fostering & adoption team) now retired, used to pay for kitting out a bedroom.

Yes it has been in the news lately about the national shortage of foster carers and this has certainly been my experience, as many carers are now fostering with IFAs (Independent Fostering Agencies) therefore depleting the supply of LA foster carers. I think the sws are right, and it will be only a matter of time, but at least you are ready to take another child.

The IFAs keep on advertising because they run like a business and want to be able to "sell" the families that they recruit to the LA for a huge sum of money. They pay their carers more and build in costs for therapy if necessary for children etc but this is all charged to the LA, depleting their scarce financial resources. These IFAs make huge profits for the directors and so they don't want to be in a position to not have a family available to "sell" when it is needed because there are no LA carers free to take a child.

Does that make sense to you?

Fosterangel Fri 12-Oct-12 19:47:58

Hi NN and CaH. I asked "where are all the new foster carers?" on a thread a while back as all we were hearing from our LA was how short of foster carers they were. It was a bit worrying as it began shortly after we qualified. Some of those that we did the Skills to Foster with did not stay fostering and left, and we were told that no new ones were coming through. It felt like we entered as most were rushing out the door!

CaH your spare room would have been an absolute godsend to us when we needed short break respite. I really hope it goes well for you when your new little ones arrive. It sounds like you are desperately needed by your LA.

NN - I did not appreciate that there were such fluctuations in bringing children to safety. I suppose I wrongly thought it was a steady number although rising since Baby P. I still cannot get my head around why the LA would pay so much to place a foster child with an IFA and not invest that money in LA foster carers and so recruit more.

I had no idea of the politics in fostering - it has been a real eye-opener!

purplesheila Sat 13-Oct-12 00:46:36

I have been a registered Foster Carer now since June for a IFA which is run as a Charity. However I am awaiting my first placement. I was also under the impression that I would get a placement very soon. I started to wonder if I should have gone to my LA but after looking into it the actual pay to the Foster Carer at our LA is very poor. infact you get more money on Job Seekers allowence which is currently £71.

There really needs to be a radical change in the system - if I was paid more from the LA I would have no issues regestering with them. I am going to give the agency a few more months and if no placements come along. I will be looking for a Job and not bother with the fostering. I am sad to say it but how else am I going to live and provide for my family without falling into Poverty ourselves. We still need to put food on the table and pay the Morgage

I have always wanted to foster and have given up my job at the request of the agency, but at the moment I am worring about the finances .

HanSolo Sat 13-Oct-12 00:54:44

My friend is a FC, she does respite care for ST/LTcarers. She never has much contact from her link worker- despite her giving plenty of notice when she is available to take children, her link worker seems useless tbh. My friend calls her regularly, but contact is all one-way IYSWIM. Her link worker has walked past her in the corridor and not even recognised her! hmm

NanaNina Sat 13-Oct-12 12:43:45

Fosterangel - I could never get my head round it either, once the IFAs started springing up - there were 4 in the County Council area in which I worked and I think there are even more now. Someone in my team had a father who was a Professor of Mathematics and he actually worked out (in a very detailed way) how the LA would be better off financially if they paid the same as IFAs etc., and it went to the Directors of Social Services meeting (directors from all over the country) and it was turned down - so - I think some of us gave up at that point. My own view is that they did not have the brain power to work it out. My colleague's father even offered to come and talk to them through it but they turned that down as well. The only thing we got was them saying they didn't have the capital in the budget to fund this scheme and I think that might have been true. The galling thing is that I bet many of these IFAs presented a business plan to the bank and got a loan (in the days when there was plenty of money sloshing around in banks!) Public services of course are not allowed to apply for loans from banks.

Some of us in the LA campaigned long and hard to pay foster carers an annual salary so that they could be certain of paying mortgages etc whether they had a placement or not and that was turned down for the same reason. It made things very difficult for us when foster carers kept saying "yes but they pay IFAs when they have to" which of course is perfectly true because an abused/neglected child can't be sent home because there is no placement.

Years ago young children used to be placed in children's homes and I remember when I was traing (in the 70's!) I did a spell in a residential home and there were children there as young as 5. I thought it was horrendous and have always been against residential care for any child, regardless of their age. Institutions are not fit for purpose in my view - oh better shu t up or I will go on all day about that! Anyway it finally filtered through that residential care was not suitable for children under 10, and they were better looked after in foster care. We then started recruiting carers for teenagers which was very successful and many children's homes were able to be closed. The unit costs of residential homes was astromonical, as they had to keep the building in good repair, furnishings, food, staff costs etc etc. Again there was conflict because some managers thought residential care was essential. I'll get off my hobby horse now!

It is a fact that applications for Care Orders has apparently risen by 50% since baby P, but that of course is on a national basis. Often we had new carers who waited much longer than they had expected for their first placement, but once started they usually were kept busy.

NanaNina Sat 13-Oct-12 12:59:08

Purplesheila How horrendous for you. Are you talking about an IFA or one of the voluntary organisations like Barnardoes, who do run as a charity but of course make a profit. IFAs are not really charities, all it means is that they do not pay shareholders, but it doesn't mean that the directors don't pay themselves very large salaries, with the profit that are making from the LAs.

I think you may be wrong about payments to LA foster carers (though of course all LAs pay different rates) Most pay age-related fostering alowances plus a "reward element" or "fee" for caring for the child. I would be pretty certain LA pay to fcs is far more than Job Seekers.

I cannot believe that the IFA wanted you to give up your job. Obviously if someone is working outside of the home, one of the carers needs to be able to care for the child, and so would need to be at home. However with older children it can sometimes work, especially if the carer is working part time, but then of course there is the school run, holidays, sickness etc. I think this demonstrates how totally unprincipled IFAs are and how greedy for profit. If your working hours precluded you for caring for a child, they should not have taken up your application.

YOu have probably read my post above about IFAs "selling" their families to LAs and making huge profits. Many fcs for IFAs don't realise that the costs are charged to the LA - they think the IFAs pay them. I'm not criticising this because why would they know, but the IFAs don't explain this to their applicants. If MN posters come on asking about IFAs I usually advise them to ask the IFA how many children in the age range they are considering they have placed in the past 2 years.

I really feel very angry about this IFA and the position you are in now, but these people are entrepeneurs and are about making profit. End of.

I wonder if you should look into LA rates again as I think you will find it is more than you thought. Mind there are LA carers on the thread saying they are not getting many placements, and of course this is always going to be the case, as families don't have crisises to order! There is no way of knowing when and how many children are needing foster care on any particular day.

NinePeedles Sat 13-Oct-12 14:20:28

The reason you do not have a placement yet could simply come down to matching decisions. Don't take it personally! Your house will be full soon enough!
Remember there are lots of things to take into consideration when finding the best placement for children, not least the fact that this will be your first placement. No-one will want you to burn out before you've started! Things as simple as geographical location could be a factor, the structure of your own family, wether you have pets, wether you can facilitate contact etc. Remember you are there to provide a service; the needs of the children are paramount, not your need to get started! Good luck, I'm sure you will be busy soon!

childatheart Sat 13-Oct-12 21:19:01

I wish I shared your optimism NP.

This isn't our first placement (we already have a lo for some time) and bear in mind we were approached by the La who virtually "begged" us to utilize and convert our spare room !!

NanaNina Sat 13-Oct-12 23:16:34

The trouble is that LAs are desparate for foster carers but cannot guarantee when a child or children are going to need a placement. They are trying hard I think to have as many "home grown" carers as possible so they don't have to spend tons of money on IFAs. Have you talked to the sws about why you haven't had a 2nd placement yet. What age range do you take? That might have something to do with it, but to be honest, it's always been like this, feast and famine and there isn't any way of knowing when children are needing foster placements. We used to go back over the figures for previous years and see how it matched up, but there was no logic in this either, because previous figures still didn't give any indication of the future if you see what I mean.

You are obviously seen as good carers and I'm sure you spare room will be needed sooner or later......why not have a chat with your link worker about how frustrated you feel, which is very understandable.

childatheart Sun 14-Oct-12 16:05:28

Thanks NN I think we'll just sit tight and it will happen sooner or later

scarlet5tyger Mon 15-Oct-12 21:12:43

childatheart start using your spare room for something else and you can bet the phone will ring!! grin

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