Foster carers are being urged to ‘be like Brenda’ and support a campaign to provide short break care for city children.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has launched a hard-hitting campaign to promote the need for city residents to come forward to provide regular respite care to help parents, and their children who have disabilities or additional needs.
The council would like to hear from people like the fictional character Brenda – an average woman who provides short break care for a young boy who is autistic. The carers will have an understanding of the disability maybe from their own life experience or through their employment.
Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for social services, said:
“We know that there are lots of people in the city like Brenda; people with a kind heart and experience of children who have additional needs. They may have a child with additional needs themselves or have worked in that setting.
“People like Brenda are really important. They enable parents to have valuable time to themselves, and provide continuity for the young people, in building a relationship with the same carers. This continuity is particularly beneficial for children with disabilities.
“People like Brenda also have strong links with the city which is important for the young people, because they are able to remain in the area they are familiar with, and it also mean carers have the support of a strong, consistent network of professional staff and other carers.
“We are in real need of people to offer short break respite, and have a waiting list of parents who want to be matched.”
The council is looking to establish a network of 10-15 families who are registered to provide placements for 30 young people. The authority has launched a publicity campaign to promote the service, with billboards and radio adverts across the city.
The council is also using fostering fortnight, which runs until 26 May, to highlight the initiative.
The authority’s fostering service is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Foster carers do not have to have a big house, be in employment or have children of their own. It does not matter if they are married, divorced, single or living with a partner – they just need to have time and space in their lives to foster.
Approximately 470 children are currently in care in Stoke-on-Trent. Foster carers are paid depending on individual cases, but the rewards for people like Brenda may be more than just financial. The council would also like foster carers for teenagers – many teenagers need less support than the round-the-clock intensive care needed for very young children.
Paula Wilman, a local authority commissioning officer for children’s services, has been a short break carer. The 41-year-old had looked after a 17-year-old boy with complex physical and learning disabilities, who used a wheelchair; she had also looked after a 10 year old boy with learning disabilities.
“I got involved in providing short break care because I wanted to give something back. I don’t have children myself, but have worked with disability organisations that support children. I was able to provide respite care once a month, which fitted in with my full time work. I’m a big believer in doing something rather than sitting around talking about it.
“I was given a lot of support and training, and the children have families that are nearby, which is a good reassurance. The supervising social worker and support network is excellent.
“I would encourage other people to become short break carers. It is also an opportunity to have fun and experience things that you wouldn’t normally do as an adult – for example we had days out at the monkey forest, or played in streams. The satisfaction of being able to contribute to a child’s life is really good.”
As part of fostering fortnight, council officers are staging events across the city to promote the service, short break respite care, and ways people can find out more.
Events are to be held at:
- Saturday 18 May and Sunday 19 May – St Thomas Church, Manor Court Street, Penkhull, where an information stand will be available all weekend.
- Tuesday 21 May, 10am – 4pm – Asda Supermarket, Scotia Road, Tunstall, where the recruitment team will be on hand to talk about fostering in the city.
- Wednesday 22 May, 9.30am – 12noon – Marychurch Centre, 153 Werrington Road, Bucknall, where an information breakfast will provide an opportunity to drop in and talk to the fostering recruitment team.
- Wedneday 22 May, 6.30pm – 8pm – Hanley Community Fire Station, Lower Bethesda Street, Hanley, where a fostering information meeting will take place.
- Friday 24 May, 11.30am – 2pm – Norsaca, Lindsay Annexe, Cannon Place, Hanley, where the recruitment team will be on hand to talk about fostering in the city.