Reforming foster care could save Haringey millions

PROPOSALS to reform the fostering service at Haringey Council could be better for children and save the authority �7million, say Liberal Democrats.

Opposition member for children Cllr Rachel Allison revealed the proposals at a full council meeting on Monday evening, claiming that by bringing more foster care “in-house”, rather than commissioning private agencies to do it, children could be better looked after and money could be saved.

On average, each child cared for by a fosterer from a private agency as opposed to a fosterer directly recruited by Haringey costs the council an additional �25,000, said Cllr Allison, who is ward member for Highgate.

Councils are advised to aim for a ratio of 80 per cent in-borough care to 20 per cent agency fosterers – in Haringey the ratio is 30 per cent from the authority and 70 per cent of children being looked after by an agency.

Cllr Allison said as well as costing the borough extra funds, this often meant the children were moved far from their previous home – against recommendations by charities such as Barnados.

She said: “The outcomes for children can be so much better if they are placed close to their wider family, their school and friends. We need to focus on what is best for our children and we owe it to them to ensure that we do all we can to increase the numbers of Haringey foster carers.

“The fact that the Council can save up to �7million a year is an extra bonus. It should be an extra incentive for swift action.”

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Cllr Allison also presented evidence to back up her concerns siting out-of-date statistics on the website and a “mystery-shopper” exercise, which revealed Haringey failed to answer phone calls or messages.

But cabinet member for children and young people, Cllr Lorna Reith, said work was already under way to improve the service.

“Fostering and adoption are an important part of how we support young people and families,” she said.

“We are always looking to see if there are any ways we can improve the service and increase the number of our foster carers. We have changed the way we publicise the service – for example having stalls at public events.

“Where possible, we try to put children with carers close to their own homes. We have recently set up a consortium with four other north London boroughs to cut the costs of advertising and recruitment of foster carers.”

A council spokesman added that 190 children placed in foster care outside the borough are still close by in boroughs that border Haringey and that many placements through private companies result in the child remaining in the borough.

The Broadway contacted a number of foster care agencies for comment, but none wished to speak publicly.