Imagine a broadband provider that spends millions of pounds running a national advertising campaign that generates thousands of new online applications for its current product.
So far so good. But if that same company has clunky back-office systems and processes, meaning it is only able to convert a handful of these new online applications into actual sales and new customer accounts, it’s unlikely to stay in business for long.
The same principle is true of councils trying to recruit new foster carers.
To use the analogy of a 4 x 400m relay team, communicators are often involved in running the first leg of the race: managing marketing activity to generate initial enquiries.
But no matter how effective this first leg might be, it’s ultimately only as good as those that follow. If the baton is dropped anywhere across the onward recruitment process, it impacts on the end outcome: getting new foster carers over the line.
And getting this right really matters. Being able to place children with local authority foster carers provides them with greater opportunity to maintain relationships with their family and friends, stay at the same educational setting and live in a community they feel able to relate to.
IFA placements are also a huge cost driver for many councils. According to the Foster Care in England report (2018) local authorities spent a total of £1.70 billion on fostering in 2016/17, more than a third of that on buying placements from IFAs. One local authority estimates that every foster carer they recruit saves them on average at least £400 per week.
This is where performance data is crucial. A local authority can only know if its foster carer recruitment processes are as efficient and effective as they could be, if it is consistently capturing robust data across each key stage and using that to adjust and improve what it is doing.
This allows everyone with an interest – which given what’s at stake should include the senior management team – to understand conversion rates. That is, how prospective carers progress through each stage of the recruitment process.
Without a firm handle on the data, including retention rates, well-intentioned efforts are likely to be inefficient and potentially counter-productive.
LGcomms is organising a seminar on this subject in late April. If you’re involved in foster carer recruitment, you can help inform this by completing this short survey by Friday 6 March.