Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Foster care motion concluded

The DUP brought a motion on foster care for debate in the assembly on 8 December 2009. This is the continuation and conclusion of the debate.

The motion, tabled by Jim Shannon and Lord Morrow, asked for recognition of the lack of foster carers, the large proportion of foster carers of retirement age and the general lack of support.

The motion urged Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to initiate a new policy on foster care as a matter of urgency.

Mr Shannon said fostering authorities were often forced to fill the first available vacancy, rather than choose a vacancy designed for a particular child's needs. This could mean that the child had to move away from their school and their friends.

He said the age profile of current foster carers was a concern for the future as fewer younger foster carers were being recruited, which was "a real problem looming on the horizon".

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill said foster carers should be recognised as part of the children's workforce and there needed to be an examination of their remuneration.

Ulster Unionist John McCallister said there needed to be a further 150-200 long-term foster carers recruited.

The SDLP's Dominic Bradley said both carers and those cared for needed all of the support they could get, and there needed to be an implementation plan which should be monitored by the assembly.

The minister paid tribute to those who looked after some of the most vulnerable children in society, however he said there was no need for a new strategy for foster carers.

The 2007 Care Matters Strategy was sufficient and should be built upon, and he said he had spent the last two years getting cross-departmental support for the strategy.

The motion was carried.

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