New Clause 14

Part of Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 3 Gorffennaf 2008.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Transport 2:00, 3 Gorffennaf 2008

Like other hon. Members, I have tabled a new clause on this subject because I support the proposal that foster carers should be paid while they are under investigation following an allegation. I do not intend to give a view on the rightness of allegations in any individual case, nor do I come at the matter with any particular assumption about whether an allegation might be valid or false. The memory is fresh in my mind of two sisters, who are now adults, and who, as children, made a complaint about abuse. They came to see me to tell me how inadequately their felt their allegations were investigated. However, it is a fact, as the Fostering Network briefing says, that

“around a third of all foster carers will face an allegation during their fostering career and the vast majority of these turn out to be unfounded.”

The Fostering Network deserves much credit for its campaign on the issue. It has marshalled its facts well; its arguments are cogent; and it has been quite attuned to the parliamentary process in trying to influence decision makers. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will recall that I brought a delegation from the Fostering Network to see him, and the present subject was among the matters that we discussed. My hon. Friend gave a very sympathetic reception to the points that they made. On Second Reading, the Fostering Network arranged a lobby of Parliament by foster carers. The focus on that day was on children staying put with foster carers after 18, but this issue was discussed as well.

I have found in preparing for the debate that Unison is a major trade union in social care and has strong views in support of the Fostering Network. Its briefing to hon. Members reminds us of the

“emotional strain and the considerable length of time” that foster carers might be worrying about an allegation made against them, as well as the loss of income. It makes the point that people might be able to manage the emotional strain and the worry, but they certainly cannot manage without the money. Unison says that it is crucial to ensure that good foster carers do not move out of fostering because they are compelled to do so by the lack of money, even though at the end of the investigation it might be found that indeed they are good foster carers with no stain on their character from the allegation that was made. Unison states:

“We believe that foster carers should continue, where paid, to receive their fee payment (the money given as remuneration for their work, skills and experience) and a portion of their allowance (the money paid to cover the cost of looking after children) that relates to ongoing fostering costs during an investigation.”

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich made the point that often the timetable for completing an investigation given in Government guidance is missed. That is a scandal in itself. Acceptance of the proposal that people continue to be paid during an investigation might be an extra incentive for local authorities to ensure that their investigations comply with the time limit. In that way, it might have a second benefit in addition to the benefit of maintaining foster carers’ incomes while they are under investigation. That is why I support new clause 14.