Oxfordshire invests in fostering

Cllr Steve Harrod of Oxfordshire County Council
Cllr Steve Harrod of Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed a £1m investment in its in-house fostering service.

Councillors approved the move at Tuesday's cabinet meeting with the aim being to increase the number of local carers and reduce the number of children who are placed with carers outside of Oxfordshire.

By enhancing the support given and amount paid to foster carers, the county council’s in-house service will become competitive with independent foster care agencies and other providers across the country.

The report presented to councillors said: "Oxfordshire County Council aims to become the provider of choice for current and future foster carers across Oxfordshire.

"... investment will significantly improve the outcomes of looked after children by placing them nearer to their own communities, maintaining links with their families and reducing the amount of time they spend in care.

“It is also expected to save the council up to £7.2m over six years. This is based on detailed assumptions of reversing the current decline in the numbers of our own in-house foster carers and achieving 67 per cent of children’s placements with county council foster carers.”

County Councillor Steve Harrod, portfolio holder for Children’s Services, said: “We have some amazing, wonderful and long-serving Oxfordshire County Council foster carers – now is the time to give them the recognition that they deserve and to have more of them.

“Placing children with Independent Fostering Placements will often lead to placing Oxfordshire children outside of the county. This can have a negative impact on maintaining children’s family and friends’ networks which in turn impacts the ability of children to return home.

“We want to create a high performing service that provides children with the best start in life while also giving foster carers the support that enables them to provide the best possible care for our children.”

Like all councils in England, Oxfordshire County Council has experienced large rises in the number of children entering care over the last decade. In 2011 there were 425 children in care, now there are around 780.

In April 2019, 54 per cent of foster care placements in Oxfordshire were with independent fostering agencies (IFA’s) with the majority being out of county (144 in 2019). A total of 46 per cent of children were placed with in-house Oxfordshire County Council carers in April 2019 compared to 69 per cent in 2012/14. National best practice suggests a local authority should aim to have 70 per cent of their mainstream carers in-house.

For further information on becoming a foster carer in Oxfordshire, phone 0800 783 5724 or email fostering@oxfordshire.gov.uk