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Over the last decade the world of fostering has changed. Foster Carers’ roles have become increasingly professionalised and challenging, and at the same time, the nature of many Independent Agencies, whose support is so important to their carers, has also changed – often not for the better.
There was a time when many Independent Fostering Agencies were founded and owned by social workers who branched out to deliver a high-quality service to foster carers and to the young people they looked after. These were generally small and local agencies, whose carers enjoyed being part of family business, working on an individual and level to improve the outcomes for vulnerable children.
This is no longer the complete picture.
We have now moved to a fostering sector where some of the biggest private equity houses, both UK and globally based, have through mergers and acquisitions, consolidated the market into fewer huge agencies to gain economies of scale and improve profitability. Such has been the pace and scale of activity that The Competition and Markets Authority (a non-ministerial government department responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities) has, at the time of writing, intervened to investigate the completed acquisition of Acorn Care 1 Limited (who own Pathway Care and Fostering Solutions) by the holding company which also owns the National Fostering Agency Limited (NFA).
There is no evidence to suggest that all this consolidation activity necessarily results in better outcomes for young people or in lower prices being offered to Local Authorities, and the huge the downside of course is that it reduces the number of providers the Local Authorities can choose from – something which cannot be positive for the long term.
For many foster carers, foster carers who often have a strong vocational drive, the impact of mergers and acquisitions can be unwelcome. The feeling of being an important part of something local is inevitably lost, and the service carers receive in many circumstances will be less personal. The loss of a sense of belonging and appreciation makes a huge difference.
For this very reason, Family Fostering Partners set out to be, and to remain, different for all the right reasons. As an Independent Fostering Agency owned by family and friends, we are acutely conscious of our carers professional, practical and emotional needs and the agency is structured in a way that ensures this sense of belonging is never lost and our staff will always have a close relationship with their carers and those they are caring for.
For our Local Authority customers, we offer a small yet professional, agile and flexible alternative that delivers the highest standards of care and service. Our position as a Tier 1 provider on the Welsh Framework is recognition of our attention to detail and value for money and proves that big is not necessarily better.
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