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Case Study: Fostering Recruitment & Retention Programme

Client: Department for Education


Date: August 2023 – present


Challenges faced by the client:


Foster carers play a critical role in the care system, comprising more than seven in every ten placements for children. But demand for foster carers is not keeping up with supply.


Over the last five years, there has been a downward trend in the number of applications, coupled with a striking gap between those expressing interest and those going on to foster. This leaves us with a shortfall of carers – and not enough homes for children that need them.


Both the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and Competition and Markets Authority review into Children’s Social Care called for urgent action to recruit more foster carers. In the Government’s response to the reports, “Stable Homes, Built on Love”, the Department for Education made fostering a priority commitment and pledged to deliver the Fostering Recruitment and Retention Programme, investing £36 million from 2022 to 2025.


The programme provides funding to local authorities to work in self identifying, geographically linked ‘clusters’ to redesign the experience for prospective foster carers, improving the recruitment journey from initial enquiry through to application.


Nine self-selected “clusters” of local authorities successfully bid to deliver the programme from October 2023 to March 2025, alongside Foster with North East, the pathfinder for the project.


Support offered:


Mutual Ventures was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to be the delivery partner for the Fostering Recruitment & Retention Programme. Our role is to support nine regional clusters of local authorities to develop recruitment support hubs. 

Each cluster has a dedicated coach from the MV team, providing continuous support from mobilisation until the end of the programme and building strong collaborative relationships with clusters.


Bid support


At the outset, we supported clusters with the bid process. Our coaches worked closely with clusters to understand their needs and provide tailored support. This included facilitating workshops to inform the bid and support a compelling narrative, providing challenge around technical aspects of the bid and a final review of the bid against DfE’s agreed criteria.


Coaching support


Each regional cluster benefits from ongoing coaching support from their dedicated coach as they implement their recruitment support hubs. This includes:

  • 1:1 coaching with senior leaders

  • Critical friend challenge

  • Change management support

  • Facilitation and conflict management

  • Acting as a sounding board on emerging issues

Clusters also have access to our flexible pool of expertise with experience in areas such as data, digital skills and foster care recruitment practice.


Learning programme

 

Capturing and sharing learning and programme feedback to share with clusters, the DfE and the wider sector is a crucial element of our support.


Key outputs of our learning programme include:

  • A dedicated webpage for clusters to access learning resources: Fostering Recruitment and Retention Programme | MV (mutualventures.co.uk) 

  • Tools and templates to support implementation, including workshop and planning templates and short technical guides.

  • 11 informative webinars on various topics, including learning from The North East Pathfinder and the Regional Adoption Agencies programme.

  • 8 blog posts and 2 podcast episodes.

  • A Regional Fostering Recruitment Hub Intelligence Tool to help clusters analyse performance, access regional public data and compare themselves with other areas.

  • A ‘how to’ guide to establishing fostering recruitment support hubs, based on experience from the programme. Download the guide here.

  • Facilitation of Community of Interest groups to support networking and joint problem-solving around cross-cutting issues.

 

The impact:


Our support as delivery partner has enabled all clusters to successfully launch their recruitment support hubs within tight programme timescales. Feedback from cluster has been overwhelmingly positive, with 100% rating the overall quality of support as excellent.


“We could not have delivered the programme without our coach. She has been such an incredible support and guide throughout delivery, from the initial vision setting through to go live delivery and beyond.”

All respondents also rated coaches’ ability to deliver solutions to challenges as excellent and agreed that they received an appropriate level of constructive challenge. 


“We wouldn't have been able to achieve what we have achieved without the support of our coach and colleagues at Mutual Ventures. The support has enabled us to think through complex issues with clarity and build effective stakeholder relationships.  Hannah and team act with integrity and discretion, whilst at the same time are able to accurately identify when to provide constructive challenge.  This means Mutual Ventures are viewed as trusted advisors across our cluster.”

Clusters reported that the creation of opportunities for cross-programme learning and development have enhanced the quality of their new services. In particular, clusters highlighted the impact of the peer support network.


“Our coach brought a wealth of knowledge and learning from other clusters which has really helped to inform our delivery in our cluster.... She is always incredibly responsive, reassuring, understanding and consistently goes the extra mile.”
“It has allowed us to improve our overall approach by sharing good practice and ideas from other LAs.”

To find out more about this project and our support, click here: Fostering Recruitment and Retention Programme | MV (mutualventures.co.uk)

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