Foster Carers come to us to get unionised and to fight for a fair deal and standard of living says GMB.
GMB, Britain’s general union, has called for foster carers to join the union to fight for better pay and terms and conditions at work. The call follows the announcement from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) that foster carers had voted to form a union to fight for pay and working rights.
As the first union in the UK to organise foster carers, GMB has worked with local authorities to help set up foster carer associations where there is not currently one in place, as well as assisting in provision of training packages for foster carers.
The union held an event for foster carers recently, attended by Batley MP hopeful Tracey Brabin, to bring together foster carers and allow fostered children to participate in art competitions.
Colleen Callaghan, GMB member and Kirklees Council Foster Carer, said "I attended the IWGB meeting in London on Monday this week to listen to the campaign. I have been a member of the GMB for a long time and they helped us foster carers in Kirklees get organised and put weight behind our argument for decent terms of fostering, providing us with legal advice and support throughout.
The knowledge that we have 636,000 GMB members behind us made us feel safe and confident in raising our concerns and reassured us that we could find a resolution. As a result, we now work with new managers in the fostering department of the Council to rectify issues and aim to be the flagship local authority in fostering which other local authorities can follow. The council wants to work with us to achieve this and do it together."
Rachel Harrison, GMB Lead Organiser for Foster Carers: "GMB has been representing foster carers in the Yorkshire and North Derbyshire Region for the last 5 years and have growing movements in Leeds, Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford with a member density of almost 40% in some areas. We have active campaigns in Manchester, Stockport and Torbay to name but a few.
We strive to be the union for self-employed foster carers. As one of the UK’s largest unions, GMB continues to work with the Fostering Network on a national scale, campaigning for national improvements on standards for foster carers.
Foster carers have one of the most important roles in society, looking after our most vulnerable children. However, they have the least amount of employment rights due to their self-employed status despite being completely accountable to local authorities and having to adhere to strict terms they set. They need our support and we have successfully been able to bring them together and unionise this previously vulnerable group of workers.
Helping them stand together collectively to challenge cuts and reductions to their pay and terms of fostering. As well as offering individual advice and representation when needed, when placements have broken down and the local authorities look to deregister foster carers, we have offered support and legal representation when false allegations have resulted in criminal proceedings.
Cuts to terms for foster carers has been seen by some authorities as an easy way of managing budgets but by removing foster carers’ job security, they’re being pushed out of the profession. In some areas there has been removal of vital annual leave entitlements meaning that foster carers do not have an option to take a break away with their families, without the looked after children. Many foster carers I speak with do not use this entitlement and often choose to take their foster children away with them at their own expense but it is a condition of fostering that is essential to reassure that a break is available if needed in this 24 hour a day profession.
The message we want to give Councils is not to fear foster carers joining unions. We want to work together. Our members in foster care simply want to feel respected and listened to. They want to be consulted on major changes that affect their livelihoods, like and other worker employed by a council would be.
It’s still early days in this campaign but foster carers right across the country are joining the GMB on a daily basis. They've come to us for support. They've come to us to get unionised and to fight for a fair deal and standard of living."