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  • Ella Lawrence

Oni and Others v LB Walthamstow and Others

In June 2023, the East London Employment Tribunal heard three test cases of NUPFC Foster Carers responsible for caring for children placed with them by the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest, Bromley, and Haringey, respectively. 



Ms Oni (far right), Ms Dawkins (second in from right), and Ms Reid (centre right) told the Tribunal about the problems they faced by many of the thousands of foster families in England and the lack of any legal remedy to challenge the injustice.

 

The Employment Tribunal heard the legal submissions of all parties on 6-8 February 2024, and we await the judgement from Employment Judge Crosfill sitting at East London Employment Tribunal.

 

Foster Carers are classified as neither workers nor employees, meaning they are denied fundamental employment rights. The National Union of Professional Foster Carers (NUPFCare the first Foster Carers' union to challenge the Government in 25 years.

 

First Foster Carers' union to challenge the Government in 25 years.

 

In 1998, a case in the Court of Appeal called 'W v Essex' ruled that Foster Carers did not work under a contract. This left those who looked after and accommodated the country's most vulnerable children without employment protection. Our members are now attempting to overturn that decision.


Claims such as race discrimination and whistleblowing in the Employment Tribunal are not available to Foster Carers. NUPFC says this is a breach of their Human Rights. 

 

In June 2023, the Tribunal heard many of the common problems Foster Carers face when asking to improve their working lives. The Foster Carers said that despite working 24/7 to care for the children, most do not get holiday pay. Robin Findlay, the founder of NUPFC, says there is a massive shortage of Foster Carers, so carers who can give respite to allow full-time carers to rest are few and far between. The necessity of rest is not written into policy, meaning many carers go without any time off, including when sick. He also said, "when advocating for a child, the constant threat of Standard of Care investigations and the removal of the child are used to keep the carer quiet and often confine carers to work and live in distressing environments that subsequently impact the child in their care.”

 

 

The claimants hold the Government accountable for Foster Carers' lack of employment rights. The Secretary of State for Education has intervened in the legal action. The argument that Foster Carers look after the children for "love, not money" does not fit the real world in 2024. NUPFC says Foster Carers can do both.

 

This critical test case would not have been possible without the fantastic hard work and dedication of everyone at NUPFC and the legal team. No other lawyer has mounted a serious human rights legal challenge to the lack of foster carers' employment status for 25 years. We are the first.

 

We instructed two barristers, Rachel Crasnow KC [link to bio] and Christopher Milsom [link to bio], who have fought tirelessly to speak up for Foster Carers.

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