4 February: Around 40 foster care workers from across Scotland will conduct a mass lobby of the Scottish Parliament on 6 February, calling on the Scottish government to reform the fostering system by creating a central register of foster care workers.
The foster carers, all members of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), will be meeting over 20 MSPs to speak first hand about the problems that the current situation creates, and ways in which their skills and expertise could be used in a much more efficient way if a central register existed.
In Scotland currently, all 32 local authorities and approximately 20 independent fostering agencies each have their own process for assessing, training and approving foster carers. This results in duplication, inefficiency and significant variation in standards of training and subsequently care for children in different areas. This system also contributes to the lack of available foster care workers, as they need to undergo reapplication, assessment and training if they move between fostering services or localities.
Creating a central register will ensure comprehensive training standards, more consistent approval of carers and independent oversight in the event of allegations or complaints. Currently, foster care work is the only trade where the regulator and the employer are the same entity.
This perpetuates a system in which standards vary wildly between local authorities and unaccountable decision makers have the power to de-register foster care workers with no independent oversight. This allows deregistration to be used as a punitive measure against foster care workers who blow the whistle over safeguarding concerns or unsafe practices.
Jane Wright, IWGB Foster Care Worker Branch Chair, says: *“We want the highest standards of care for every child in Scotland who needs it and to ensure every foster carer can be approved and where necessary deregistered in the fairest and most transparent way. That is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a Central Register for Foster Care Workers.” *
The IWGB has been successful in extending the rights of foster care workers through strategic legal action and is the secretariat for the the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Foster Care Workers’ Rights. The Central Register for Foster Care Workers is a key point of focus for the APPG, alongside a Foster Care Workers Bill of Rights that would recognise foster care workers as employees and enshrine corresponding employment rights such as statutory holidays, sick pay, guaranteed minimum wage and protections for whistleblowing, rights which would benefit not only them but the children in their care.
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