Jane Collins on why a bill is needed to improve UK’s foster care

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Currently, foster carers have little employment rights.

Foster carers across Britain are campaigning for a new bill to go through parliament to grant them basic employment rights.

According to government statistics, currently 83,930 foster carers, in the UK, are classed as self-employed which means they are denied holiday pay, sick pay and pension.

Jane Collins, the Vice Chair of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) Foster Care Workers Union, said: “The advent of social media and increased awareness has brought people together from all over the country which has caused an unpleasant picture to have risen of how badly fosterers are treated.

Jane Collins – Vice Chair of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) Foster Care Workers Union

“A lot of this has come from the fact that we are not classed as employees or workers, so we do not have rights. We cannot go to employment tribunals, we don’t have whistleblower protection and not only is that bad for us as foster carers, but it can also have a knock-on effect on the children in our care.”

Jane has seen cases where children have been removed from their fostering placement, because the foster carer said the child’s first name in an email of complaint about a social worker.

As an experienced foster carer, Jane says: “The system is broken on so many different levels, we as foster carers do not have any protection.”

Becky Edwards, a foster carer, said: “We as foster carers have no rights whatsoever, we are not treated as professionals and if an allegation is made, we have no protection.

“As a foster carer, I’ve sometimes been excluded from meetings because it is only for professionals, which is ridiculous.

“We have the children they are discussing in these meetings 24 hours a day, we’re the ones who work with schools and healthcare to come up with the best for the children, yet we are still excluded from these important meetings about children in our care.”

This lack of protection, due to no employment rights, has led to many cases where children, in foster care, are in potentially harmful and vulnerable situations and foster carers who know about these situations, are too scared to speak up about them.

Jane speaks more about why this bill is needed, here:

Jane said: “There was a child living in a tent in storm Gareth, earlier this year, with two support workers, and no one dared to whistle blow the fact that this was going on. Why didn’t they just put the child in a basic hotel?

“Everyone in Leeds and the local authority knew that if they spoke out about this situation, then they would come after them and this does happen. I’ve seen it happen.

“Everyone was just scared, and that’s just sad, because this child was upset and frightened about this situation they were in, yet no one did anything about it.”

Having employment rights would give foster carers the opportunity to whistle blow about these situations, without being in fear they would get backlash from local authorities.

Jane continued: “It’s about the children we are here to protect and how right now, we cannot protect them because we cannot feel safe to speak up for the children and get them what they need, as we live under the constant fear of retaliation.

“For most employees with employment rights, if they spoke up or challenged management, it would be called a protected act, which means no form of retaliation from management or anyone can happen.

“However, if it does happen, the worker is entitled to compensation. Because we do not have that protection, they just come after us.”

You can hear more about how this bill will help children in care, below:

A couple who fostered Ahmed Hassan, complained about not being told of Hassan receiving training from the Islamic State group, after Hassan’s homemade bomb injured 51 people, on the Parsons Green Underground station, in September 2017.

The couple were deregistered as foster carers and authorities even went so far to tell other carers, who also look after Syrian refugees, not to speak to them. This caused the couple to be excluded from their peers, at a time when they really needed the support from them.

The couple had fostered over 270 children and even received MBEs from the Queen in 2010.

The couple are now suing Surrey County Council for this and the IGWB Foster Carer union has started a petition, demanding an apology and compensation for the couple.

Jane, along with other members of the IWGB Foster’s Union, helped write the bill with professional lawyers and has been attending parliament discussions about the bill.

She added: “This bill has changed things – it’s changed the landscape in many ways.

“People are coming together now, people are not scared anymore. People are now being brave enough to speak out, because of this bill.”

The bill could even prove beneficial for local authorities, as well as carers and children in their care. Simplyfostering.co.uk claims foster carers get a minimum of £450 a week, for each child in their care.

However, if the foster carer makes a complaint or speaks out, the authority may decide to go after the carer by moving the children from their care and possibly placing them into a residential placement, which can sometimes cost up to £1,000 a week.

By having this bill in place, authorities will no longer be able to retaliate in this way and they will be working in a more cost-effective manner.

For more details about the bill and IWGB Foster Care Workers Union, visit:

https://www.fcwu.org.uk/

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