Our Work in the UK
The Foster Care Workers Branch is a dynamic and lively branch of the IWGB which is campaigning for improvement in the foster care system across the UK. We have two main strands to our work:
We are campaigning for Limb B workers’ rights for foster carers. This is a category of self-employment which acknowledges the fact that we are not independent self employed contractors but instead are in business on behalf of another’s organisation, ie. our Local Authority or Independent Fostering Agency.
This category is the best fit for us as foster carers as it describes what we already do and does not change our relationship with the children and young people in our care or the LA or IFA that we work for. We are simply asking to be recognised as the workers that we already are.
At the IWGB we believe that this status is not only important for us but is also vital to give the children in our care the stability and security they need to know they will not be removed from their fostering families unless it is absolutely necessary. We hear far too many story of children being moved and disrupted because a worker has a grievance with a foster carer and this type of behaviour has to stop. It is far too damaging to everyone involved.
Our main route to accessing these rights is through legal challenges. With the support of the IWGB, branch members Jimmy and Christine Johnstone won their case against Glasgow City Council last year and while a half hearted appeal is in the pipeline the council has in the meantime been treating the Johnstone’s and the other members of their specialist team as the workers they are.
This case was always about more than employment status, and the second part of this case is about the bullying and victimisation the Johnstone’s faced when they advocated for the young person in their care and asked for their needs to be appropriately met by Glasgow City Council as their corporate parent. This is the real story of this case and we will bring you more updates as and when
We have a further two cases against Scottish Local Authorities, one involving Karl and Diane Boyle against North Lanarkshire Council and another against Edinburgh City Council which is being brought by one of our members. We believe that these cases will change the attitudes shown to us by LAs and IFAs and we will be given the rights that we deserve but have long been denied.
Our other area of this work is a change of legislation to have us formally recognised as Limb B workers. We are doing this via an All-Party Parliamentary Group which we have convened in Westminster to address the issues of workers rights. Having paused for the General Election the APPG will be reconvening shortly. You can see the proposed Foster Care Workers Bill here.
Central Register of Foster Carers
Our second aim is to establish a central register of foster carers in each of the respective countries in the UK. As the name suggests this register will provide a comprehensive list of foster carers in the country who will be approved by a central body rather than the current situation where our registration is tied to the assessing Local Authority or IFA. This will allow for better and more consistent approvals of carers, will provide a comprehensive standard for training and will be an independent body to investigate and make decisions in the event of allegations against foster carers.
This will provide some much needed clarity in the whole deregistration process that is currently carried out behind closed doors with little or no outside scrutiny. Branch officials have started by lobbying MSPs in Scotland to raise awareness of the need for a central register in Scotland and assessing the best way to take this piece of legislation forward. This will set the precedent for the rest of the UK. We have also been meeting with The Care Review, and interested third sector organisations and everybody we speak to is in favour of a change of legislation and we are working hard to make it happen.