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HIDDEN CHILDREN NEED HELP

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Children's charity NCH is today highlighting that an estimated 15,000(1) children and young people are looked after...
Children's charity NCH is today highlighting that an estimated 15,000(1) children and young people are looked after by someone other than their family but only 730(2) have been registered with local authorities.

NCH is concerned that thousands of children are not getting the best deal and is tomorrow holding a seminar to address this. The charity would also like to see local authorities ensuring children in their area are getting the support they need.

Families who do not register these arrangements, known as private fostering, could unknowingly be breaking the law. On 1 July 2005 legislation came into effect that required the registration of private fostering arrangements with the local authorities. The law is part of the 2004 Children Act and is designed to safeguard, protect and promote the well-being of children in private foster care.

NCH runs a project with Southwark LBC, NCH Southwark Family Plus, to encourage local families to register their arrangements, offer support, advice and training to private foster carers in the borough and even financial assistance where appropriate. Since the project began in July 2005 39 families have come forward to register their arrangements.

Darren Johnson, NCH London deputy director, says: 'There are thousands of children who are simply not on the radar of the local authority - and they're missing out on support they may desperately need. Our work with Southwark shows how these families can be reached and that registering these arrangements can really benefit children. We just hope that not only do families come forward, but that local authorities are doing everything they can to give those children a better deal.'

Caroline Pidgeon, executive member for education at Southwark LBC, says: 'With the new legislation it's essential to do everything we can to encourage families to register their private fostering arrangements. Only then can we give these families all the support and advice they need.

'Working with NCH has really helped - together we've done an excellent job in engaging with families and making sure they benefit from this approach. It's a great scheme that works.'

At the seminar speakers from NCH will be joined by David Holmes, chief executive of BAAF (British Association for Adoption & Fostering) and Chris Saunders, Head of District Services at Southwark Council, to discuss how to engage different communities and ensure private fostering arrangements are registered.

Anyone wanting to find out more can visit www.nch.org.uk/privatefostering

Notes

1. Position statement 3: Registration of Private Fostering, BAAF, April 2004

2. Private Fostering Arrangements in England, year ending, DfES 31 March 2005

3. The Children Act 1989 defines private fostering as occurring when a child under 16 (or under 18 if disabled) is placed for more than 28 days in the care of someone who is not a close relative, guardian or someone with parental responsibility. (Close relatives are defined in the Act as parents, step-parents, siblings, brothers or sisters of a parent, and grandparents.)

4. On 1 July 2005 legislation came into effect that required the registration of private fostering arrangements with the local authorities. The law is part of the 2004 Children Act and is designed to safeguard, protect and promote the well-being of children in private foster care.

5. NCH was previously known as National Children's Home. It rebranded in 2002 to become NCH, the children's charity.

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