Alastair Cope discusses the positive impact of Welsh Government’s plan to eliminate profit from the care of looked after children.
Two years ago, the Welsh Government made a clear commitment to ‘eliminate private profit from the care of looked after children.’
This means that by 2027, for-profit fostering organisations will not be permitted to operate in Wales. The care of children that are looked after will only be provided by public sector, charitable or not-for-profit organisations.
79% of children cared for by private fostering agencies in Wales are fostered outside their local area
These changes represent a huge opportunity to make a long-lasting, positive change to social care provision in Wales – benefiting looked-after young people today and in the future. By prioritising locally based, locally designed, and locally accountable services, there will be better outcomes for both foster carers and young people in care.
Research shows that around 79% of children cared for by private fostering agencies in Wales are fostered outside their local area. 6% are moved out of Wales entirely. These children often lose touch with their close friends, struggle to stay connected with relatives, and often have to move schools, all of which can impact their well-being.
Meanwhile, 84% of those living with local authority foster carers stay within their own local area, close to home, to school, to family and friends. This stability helps create a sense of normality for a child, in what can sometimes be a disruptive time in their life.
We know that we see better outcomes when children stay connected, stay local, and have someone to stick by them for the long term.
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Additionally, this policy is sending a strong message to looked-after young people that companies cannot be allowed to make a profit out of their social care needs. Tayler, a young person who was fostered by her local authority in Carmarthenshire, explained it best, saying, ‘growing up I wasn’t aware that some private businesses make a profit from care. That makes me feel like vulnerable children aren’t the priority, the money is. I recently graduated from university. The local authority helped me with this process and now I am living a happy and safe life, just like my younger self dreamed about.’
For foster carers, local authority fostering offers so much support. From a locally based expert team, extensive learning and development opportunities, allowances to support the care of the child, and a ready-made community of other carers nearby. This change will mean even more can be invested in local services.
As the nation undergoes the process of a whole system change for children’s services, it’s vital that we raise awareness.
To demonstrate why this change is important; a recent YouGov survey showed 52% of people weren’t aware that businesses make a profit from foster care. Yet, in 2021/22, the 10 largest providers in the UK made over £300 million in profits.
Foster carers are key to making this change a success. Their experience and expertise are crucial, and we need them now more than ever to foster with their local authority.
There are over 5,000 children in foster care in Wales. As the need for foster carers continues to grow, we need our community in Wales to step forward. As Foster Wales, we are working together to make a national impact, making foster care in Wales the very best it can be for our young people, by listening to those who care for them.
At Foster Wales, with the support of Welsh Government, we are committed to providing good, stable and safe homes for those in foster care, and focused solely on creating better outcomes for children. It’s important we continue leading the national conversation around the future of health and social care and inspire policymakers across the UK to build a better future for children and young people in care.
Find out more information about local authority fostering here.