To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they intend to take in response (1) to the report by OFSTED Inspection profiles of the largest private and voluntary providers of children's homes and independent fostering agencies March 2020, published on 23 July, and (2) the reported comment by OFSTED’s director of social care that the domination of the fostering market by a small number of operators is “storing up trouble for the future”.
The government is clear that the needs of the child are paramount when making decisions about care placements. The child’s safety, the suitability and quality of a child’s placement in care is our absolute priority. As at 31 March 2020, 93% of independent fostering agencies and 80% of all private and voluntary children’s homes were judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. We believe that a mix of provision can provide quality and increase placement options for local authorities. This mix has enabled local authorities to identify much-needed foster homes for children over the past months, providing the flexibility needed to respond to the demands and pressures of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government understands the concerns of the Ofsted Director of Social Care. The annual Ofsted data is a helpful source of insight into the children’s social care market and we continue to monitor it. We have taken action to help local authorities develop strategic approaches to securing enough placements. This includes investing part of our £200 million children’s social care Innovation Programme funding in 3 projects to improve the supply of placements. Additional funding for 2 of these projects was confirmed on 24 April as part of the £12.1 million to support vulnerable children who are most at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, in September 2019, we funded 7 local authority-led partnerships to test new approaches to commissioning and sufficiency planning in foster care, worth almost £500,000.