Northamptonshire foster carers are experiencing undue pressure to take on placements and are not always given the full picture about a child’s needs, Ofsted has said today.
In among a series of negative findings published by Ofsted a picture of what is happening within the county’s foster service has emerged.
There are 1,118 Northamptonshire children currently being cared for by the local authority with 492 (44 per cent ) in local authority foster care and 358 (32 per cent) cared for in more expensive agency placements.
In the most recent 2018/19 financial year the council spend £14m on agency foster placements, and altogether spent £53m on a range of placements for its looked-after children and young people across foster, residential, supported accommodation and crisis placements.
In its report Ofsted has said there is not enough foster places to meet demand and the service is being hampered by staff vacancies.
The report says: “The fostering service is not able to provide a sufficient number of foster placements, and vacancies in significant posts have made service development difficult.
“There has been a small increase in local foster placements, but this is not enough to meet demand, resulting in too many children living in residential care and out of county.
“Staff are not always clear about terms of approval. Some foster carers are experiencing undue pressure to take placements and are not always being provided with accurate information about children’s needs.”
The report was, however, complimentary of how the service supports foster parents.
It said: “ Foster carers are prepared, assessed, approved and supported in a timely way. The quality of assessments is, for the majority, good, and decision-making about foster carers’ suitability and ongoing approval is enhanced through independent scrutiny by a child-focused and challenging fostering panel.”
But it did say that high workloads are impacting on how much time social workers have to get feedback from foster carers.
“Some fostering supervising social workers no longer have capacity to facilitate foster carers’ support groups because they have too high a workload. This minimises the opportunities for foster carers to feed back issues to the professionals in the service.”
A report to the authority’s political cabinet earlier this month said that children with in-house providers are more likely to be less than 20 miles from home (86 per cent) compared with agency (62 per cent) children. Those living in South Northants and Daventry are more likely to be more than 20 miles from home (45 per cent) compared with other districts where the figure ranges between 17 per cent and 22 per cent.