The Children's Minister Tim Loughton has called on all local authorities to make it easier for foster carers to make decisions for the children in their care, and free them from over-zealous restrictions and bureaucracy.
In a letter to all local authorities, the minister outlined his concern at accounts of excessive restrictions on foster carers imposed by some local authorities. In particular, he is concerned at the persistent myths which are stopping many foster carers making simple decisions about everyday activities for their foster children.
Arrangements on issues like haircuts, sleepovers and family holidays should, where possible, be agreed in advance with local authorities to avoid the delays and obstacles which many children and foster carers are facing.
The minister has reminded local authorities of their duty to make sure clear placement plans are agreed at the start of a foster placement so parents, social workers and foster carers know their roles and responsibilities.
Tim Loughton said: "I am concerned by accounts that foster carers are facing unnecessary obstacles when trying to make every day decisions about the lives of the children they look after.
"The default position should be that foster children should be treated to as regular a home life as possible, as if they were children with their own birth parents. We must knock down persistent myths, such as CRB checks always being required before a child can enjoy a sleepover with friends, that are preventing normal family life. I urge local authorities to re-examine their processes and employ common sense about how to manage relationships with foster families and children's parents," he added.
The Government has also launched a consultation on proposed changes to Children's Homes and Fostering guidance and regulations. The changes are designed to reduce delay in foster placements, streamline bureaucracy and remove overly prescriptive regulations, including proposals to reduce the size of fostering and adoption panels. The Department wants to hear from professionals, foster carers and those with a view on fostering, about further ways the system could be improved for the benefit of children and families involved.
Robert Tapsfield, Chief Executive of the Fostering Network said: "We welcome the minister's decision to write to local authorities and urge that they all take action now to improve the lives of children in foster care. We regularly hear from foster carers whose jobs are being made more difficult and from young people who are missing out on life experiences as a result of uncertainty, delay and bureaucracy. Foster carers look after fostered children in their own homes, as part of their own families, and must be trusted, encouraged and supported to make everyday decisions on their behalf."
To participate in the consultation on Fostering and Children's Homes regulations and guidance, click here.