Fostering Services (Ofsted Supervision)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 21 October 2009.

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Photo of Iain Wright Iain Wright Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 4:52, 21 October 2009

I am keen to do anything I can to help my hon. Friend and his constituent with what must be an incredibly distressing matter. My interpretation of the facts, after discussion with my hon. Friend and having read the previous Adjournment debate, is that the local authorities concerned seem willing to help in whatever way they can. If it would help, I can try to see whether that is possible. However, as a result of the powers given to Ofsted by the House and Parliament, I believe that it would be more appropriate to go through the Information Commissioner.

On a similar note, my hon. Friend said that individuals are still misrepresenting the case. Again, I reiterate that, as set down by the House and the other place, Ofsted does not have the remit to investigate individuals who are not part of registered and regulated provisions. Only if a setting is registered can it investigate in order to establish compliance with national minimum standards and regulations. I reiterate the point about raising concerns on personal data with the Information Commissioner, which is an appropriate response, but I am more than happy to reconsider the matter.

We want to move forward and try to ensure that everything is right first time and every time-an important principle. I mentioned the quality of Ofsted inspections and improving the inspection regime. Ofsted now reports on the outcomes for children and young people, making them more child-focused. It issues additional guidance to inspectors to ensure that they use the same criteria when making inspection judgments. It is also increasing the accessibility of its pre-inspection questionnaires, so that they are clearer, easier to use and available in symbols, which enables a wider range of children to express their views.

In addition, I am aware that further work is under way to improve the inspection framework for fostering services. My Department is helping by consulting on the revised national minimum standards, which are more focused on outcomes for children; they are also clear about the need to share information with foster carers that relates to children's backgrounds.

As I have outlined, the Government place huge value on the army of good foster carers, who do so much to improve young lives and to inspire and safeguard children. We have done much to support them, as I outlined earlier, and wish to continue working with stakeholders to determine what more we can do to help in the local recruitment of foster carers. As my hon. Friend pointed out, if we are to attract people into foster caring and retain our existing foster carers, we need to make sure that they receive the right support.

The White Paper "Care Matters" set out our plans for improving the training of and support available to foster carers. We must continue to do everything in our power to build on that good work, in order to ensure that foster carers feel valued and appreciated for the incredible work that they do, so that young people everywhere have the same opportunities and rights to enjoy their childhood in safety.

I applaud my hon. Friend for what he is doing on behalf of his constituent, but I fully agree with him that this issue has taken far too long to resolve. I shall do all in my power under the regulatory regime provided by this place to ensure that my hon. Friend's constituent can find closure on the matter, ensuring that her reputation as a foster carer and a professional is not besmirched. I shall do all I can to work with my hon. Friend to ensure that that happens. Again, I congratulate him on securing this debate. Hopefully, but after far too long, we can seek resolution.

Question put and agreed to

Sitting adjourned