Lib Dems call for study on improving foster care

20 Feb 2023

Leeds Liberal Democrats are calling for a study on how the Council’s fostering service could be transformed into a John Lewis-style employee-owned company. It is hoped that by putting foster carers in charge, more carers could be recruited, and fewer children would be looked after in placements outside the city.

The proposal has been rejected previously by the ruling Labour Administration, but Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Stewart Golton, will re-introduce an amendment calling for the study at the Council’s Annual Budget Meeting this week. He said:

“Leeds Liberal Democrats have been concerned for years that Children’s care homes have been closed without being replaced, and foster carer recruitment has not kept pace with the number of children the Council has responsibility for. It means that too many of our young people have been placed in private care placements outside the city, far from family. What’s more these arrangements are twice as expensive, which takes money away from other areas of Children’s Services.”

The proposal to look into an employee owned fostering company for the city was inspired by the successful conversion some years ago of Leeds City Council’s services for adults with learning difficulties into the Aspire social enterprise. The Liberal Democrats have made this proposal at successive Council Budget meetings, without being adopted. However, for most of that time, it was also accompanied by another proposal to invest in new children’s care homes, which the Council finally agreed to do in 2021. However, the delay in accepting the case made by Leeds Liberal Democrats to build more care accommodation in the city to improve care and reduce costs has led to problems in getting homes built.

“We welcomed that the Council eventually accepted our argument on creating more residential accommodation within the city for kids that need it. However, because they dithered for so many years, when they did finally commit to investing in new buildings, they got hit by COVID lockdowns, shortage of construction contractors and rocketing inflation on building materials, so the care accommodation schemes are years behind schedule.  

Our proposal for the study into an employee owned company for the Fostering service is the logical next step in creating the capacity and resilience to keep as many of our young people safe, but closer to home, to the families we hope most will ultimately be able to return to. We can’t afford any more dithering like what happened with children’s residential accommodation, so I’m hoping the Labour Group will see sense again and vote our proposal through this time. ”

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