Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to help ensure children from Gypsy, Travelling and Roma communities are placed with families from their own communities if they are taken into care.
A child’s background is an important consideration when placing a looked after child. This is evidenced in the law. When making a decision with respect to a looked after child (or one that they are proposing to look after), a local authority must (under s.22 (5) of the Children Act 1989) give due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, as well as their racial origin, cultural and linguistic background.
When it comes to placing a looked after child, the local authority must give preference to a placement with family or friends as foster carer. Where this is not possible, the local authority must place the child in the most appropriate available placement.
As part of this decision, the local authority must comply with several factors. These include enabling the child to live near their home and not disrupting their education unless this is not reasonably practicable. Whilst a child’s background is important, local authorities have additional factors to consider to ensure the child’s needs and best interests are met.
In relation to foster placements, regardless of whether a child is placed with a foster carer from their own religious, ethnic, cultural, or linguistic background, the Care Standards Act 2000 includes the National Minimum Standards for Fostering. These standards outline the necessity for care providers to ensure children are cared for in a way that ensures a positive self-view, emotional resilience, and knowledge and understanding of their background. This is also covered by reg 17 of The Fostering Services Regulations 2011.
The department has invested in behavioural insights research on fostering recruitment. This is done to test the ways we can support fostering service providers to attract carers able to meet the needs of looked after children locally. This includes increasing numbers of diverse foster parents, notably Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic carers. This will be published in due course.