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10th September 2015

Foster carers and residential care workers welcomed at first ever Knowledge Exchange event

The first ever 'Knowledge Exchange' day in Wales for foster carers' and residential childcare staff held at Cardiff University on September 9 has been hailed a success.

The Care Council for Wales, Care Forum Wales and CASCADE, the Children's Social Care Research and Development Centre all supported the event which was chaired by Albert Heaney, Director of Social Services and Integration, Welsh Government.

The aim was to bring together foster carers and residential childcare workers to:

  • Share learning and knowledge with a common aim of improving outcomes for Looked After Children & Care Leavers.
  • Recognise the specific and unique roles of Foster Carers and Residential Child Care Practitioners in contributing to meeting the needs of Looked After Children.
  • Providing an opportunity to explore the potential for developing an underpinning theoretical framework which would be common to both Foster Carers and Residential Child Care Practitioners.
  • Celebrate the commitment of Foster Carers and Residential Child Care Practitioners and the contribution they make to making a difference to the lives of children and young people who are looked after.

Speakers at the event included Health Minister Mark Drakeford, the Children's Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland and Rhian Huws Williams, the chief executive by the Care Council for Wales.

Workshops at the Knowledge Exchange event

There were presentations and discussions on topics including:

  • Social Pedagogy – An Underpinning Theoretical Framework for caring for Children and Young People

  • The Enhanced Foster Care Model – Use of enhanced foster care to transition young people from residential care to foster care

  • Child Sexual Exploitation – The complexities of CSE: vulnerabilities, risks and responses

  • Using research to influence practice – Improving educational outcomes for Looked After Children and building resilience in young people in education

Report on the speech by Health Minister Mark Drakeford

Health Minister Mark Drakeford acknowledged the hugely important role foster carers and residential childcare workers play in the lives of looked after children and young people, saying their work had a huge impact on those in care and could affect the rest of those children' lives.

He recognised the budgetary constraints within the sector, the cuts in services and the impact those cuts had on people using those services. He said that we needed to take a radical look at how cared for children are looked after. He said that too many children were being taken away from their homes – a 37% increase in only 10 years in Wales, which was hugely out of step with other areas of the UK. He emphasised the need to reduce the rate at which children are being taking into care and to provide a better deal for those receiving care. Money saved in doing this could be much better spent on providing better support and proper services for children - bringing children back into their own communities.

The minister praised those working in the sector and said this was in no way a criticism of their work. But he suggested that good intentions alone were not enough – as well as wanting to do the best, all need to share best practice and learn new ways of working. He said that a new system was needed so that those providing care would be in better position to provide better care for those they look after or support. He said more needed to be done to develop skills, increase capacity, upskill and most of all, collaborate.

Highlighting the need to bridge gap between the school and home, the Minister said more ought to be done to promote the role and importance of foster carers and educators alike as ones who could influence young children. The Minister suggested the sector could learn from Social Pedagogy in some European countries and, as a devolved Wales, we all needed to look outwards and learn from others. He finished by thanking the sector for all that it did and said he looked forward to working with all in future.

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