The Competitor analysis consists of finding out how other firms compete with fostering solutions in the market. What they are doing or providing that make them different from fostering solutions and how fostering solutions can improve upon to become a more efficient, much more profitable and recruit more foster carers.
This has been done by understanding the current situation of the fostering industry, the challenges it’s facing. Also the role the local authority plays in fostering industry and finding where the demand exists across UK. After this the competitors are assessed have been assessed on turnover, profit margin, ofsted ratings, location, services provided, placements provided and foster carer allowance paid.
This gives an idea as to how these firms compete directly with fostering solutions in the industry.
The fostering industry is going through a phase of challenges. There is a shortage of over 10000 foster care families in UK. Because of this local authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are forced to make placement of children with respect to available vacancy rather than meeting best needs of child.(fosteringnet,2010)Accurate information on the number of foster carers in each country and number of foster carers recruited by each independent agency is less readily available, but statistics compiled by the fostering network for England by Ofsted suggest that there has been an increase in number of foster carers by 12.6% since 2004. However the growth was only 7.2% in England whereas it was up by 60% in Wales. (updatecostfostercare, 2010) A report from researchers at Loughborough University’s Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) and leading charity the Fostering Network has identified a shortfall in funding for foster care in the UK. The Cost of Foster Care, a report published about the fostering industry analysis, shows that fostering industry is an underfunded service, with a need of around ?580 million across the UK immediately to develop a efficiently resourced fostering service that fulfils the needs of children in care.(lough,2010) Following the Government’s decision to assert the local authorities more flexibility on making savings, the Fostering Network is of the belief that any reduction in spending on foster care would make the system ineffective, unsustainable and hinder the improvements made in outcomes for children. It warns funding for foster care must be maintained otherwise society’s most vulnerable children will suffer.
Fostering is under immense pressure due to year-on-year increases in the number of children coming into care and the chronic shortage of 10,000 foster carers. (bbc,2010)
Statistics on looked after children
There are over 83,000 children and young people looked after in the United Kingom. Out of these children, around 70,000 are looked after away from home, over 54,000 of whom (around 77 per cent) live with at least 45,000 foster families.(fosteringnet1, 2010)
Statistics by nation
The statistics below provide a picture of the care system on just one day of the year. Many more children and young people move in and out of public care over the course of 12 months.
As of 31 March 2009 60,900 children have been looked after.
Over three fourths of children are being looked after away from home (44,200 or 78 per cent) were living with foster carers.
It is estimated that in England there are at least 37,000 foster families.
An estimate by the fostering network shows a shortage of at least 8200 foster carer families. (fosteringnet1, 2010)
As of 31 March 2009 2463 children have been looked after.
Around sixty six percent of children looked after away from home (1,607 or 65 per cent) were living with foster carer families.
It is estimated that in the Northern Ireland there are approximately 1,800 approved foster families of which 450 are family and friends carers.
An estimate by the Fostering Network shows a shortage of around 200 long-term foster families.(fosteringnet1, 2010)
As of March 2009 around 15,288 children are looked after by local authorities in Scotland out of which around 6,366 are children looked after away from home and their family.
Over two thirds of children being looked after away from home and their family (4,497 or 71 per cent) were living with foster carer families.
There are approximately 3,300 foster families in Scotland.
An estimate by the Fostering Network shows there is a shortage of at least 1,700 foster families.(fosteringnet1, 2010)
As of 31 March 2009 around 4,705 children looked after.
Over four fifths of children looked after away from home (3,630 or 86 per cent) were living with foster carers.
Approximately 3000 foster families are there in Wales.
An estimate by the Fostering Network shows there is a shortage of at least 750 foster families in Wales. (fosteringnet1, 2010)
Local authorities were asked how many foster families they would have to recruit in order to offer placement choice to the children in their care. Placement choice means having a sufficiently wide pool of foster families so that each child can live with a family that meets their individual needs.(fosteringnet2, 2010)
England 8,200 of which
North West 1,700
North East 1,300
West Midlands 650
East Midlands 450
South West 600
South East 850
Northern Ireland 200 (updated in March 2009)
Scotland 1,700 (May 2005 figure)
There is maximum demand for foster carers in London and North West of England.
Research by the Fostering Network also found 82% of local authorities saw a rise in the number of children coming into care and needing foster homes in 2009-10. (bbc, 2010)
Local authority as a competitor
When a porters 5 forces model is developed, the local authority is a supplier, buyer as well as a competitor in this industry.
The local authority buy the service of the fostering agency, they supply the children for placement to the fostering agencies and they also place children on their own hence they are a competitor.
Comparison of Approved foster carers in year 2008-2009 between Local authorities and Independent Fostering agencies
Local Authority Independent agencies
Total number of foster carers approved 3423 2088
Total number of foster carers held as 23195 9893
on 31 march 2009
Comparison of placements provided between Local authorities and Independent fostering agencies in year 2008-2009
Total number of long term placement 6146 3758
Total number of continuing care placement 1655 1149
Total number of time limited placement 12879 4877
Total number of emergency care placement 824 2013
Total number of intensive fostering placements 1016 874
Total number of treatment care placements 86 150
Total number of short break for disabled children 2876 398
Total number of short break for non disabled children 534 50
(fostering agencies and fostering services dataset,2010 )
The local authority has placed more children in the 2008-2009 period as compared to the independent fostering agencies and are therefore identified as one of the bigger threats to fostering solutions along with the top two fostering agencies Foster care associates and National foster association.
On discussion with Michelle about this we came to a conclusion that the reason could be that local authorities do not strive for the inspection quality in their approval process that the independent agencies might be doing. And this was found out to be true when we chose 6 local authorities in random and checked their ofsted ratings. None of whom had outstanding ratings, 2 had satisfactory and 4 had good. (refer to appendix c1)
Number of applications from prospective fostering households received
Local Authority – 7253
Independent agencies- 6607
The statistics show that even though the independent fostering agencies are providing better allowances the prospective foster carers prefer the local authority to independent fostering agencies.
The reason here could be because local authorities are key authority in placing children to the foster carers. Hence the myth that if foster carers join the local authority fostering they could get children placed quicker with them.
How many foster carers successfully completed the Children’s Development Workforce Council’s certificate in ‘Training, Support and development Standards for Foster Care’?
Local authority- 825
Independent fostering agencies- 529
(fostering agencies and fostering services dataset,2010 )
Local authorities are thus a serious competitor(substitute) for the independent fostering agencies.
Competitor analysis-company reports
The fostering industry is going through a challenge to recruit foster carers to look after children who are in abundance. In the fostering business agencies recruit foster carers, who are when placed with children or young people get paid for the placement from the local authority.
In consultation with fostering solutions we have identified the top 9 independent fostering agencies who directly compete with fostering solutions in the industry.
Foster care Associates
National Fostering Agency
By the Bridge Fostering
In the Appendix C2 shows the turnover, profit margin, ofsted ratings, foster carer allowance paid comparison of the 9 competitors.
Below is a detailed report on each of 9 fostering companies in terms of location, ofsted ratings, services provided, placements provided, number of employees and foster carer allowance paid. By doing so we can find out how each of these companies compete with Fostering solutions in the industry. After each company report we look at a findings/strategy/comparison section to emphasize how they compete in the industry and vs fostering solutions.
Due to word limit a detailed analysis of services comparison is provided in the appendix. (refer appendix m3)
Foster Care Associates
Over 80 Offices in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. (fca1, 2010)
Part of Core assets group.
The Core Assets Group of Companies provides an international portfolio of social care services, offering innovative business solutions to the care sector.
Foster care associates has subsidiaries in UK.
Fostering First (Ireland ) Limited
Fostering people Limited
Outcomes (UK) Limited
Fostering First International, a sister company to Foster Care Associates Ltd, is currently located in 7 different countries: Republic of Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Services provided to foster carers(fca2, 2010)
They provide a Respite of up to 21 nights per year.
They avail the service of a Therapist
They hold Regular group meetings held at local fca office
They give Membership to foster talk
They arrange for Organised activities
They hold Foster care training program
They provide for Children and young people support workers
Placements provided(fca3, 2010)
Parent and child placement
Placement for sanctuary seeking children and young people
Placement for disabled children
Short term breaks
OFSTED ratings (ofsted,2010)
2 Outstanding and 7 good
Foster carer allowance- 390 Pounds / Week (fca4, 2010)
Financial data( FAME) th gbp 2008(data available only for financial year end 2008
Profit before taxation 10074
Number of employees 871
Key Issues and Facts(fca5,2010)
2400 children placed as of December 2009. Highest number of placements across all IFA’s in the UK.(fca5,2010)
Foster carer recruited in year of 2009 – above 360 .
94% of local authorities present in England have partnered with them.
They claim 66% of the Scottish Local authorities work as partners with them.
They claim 95% of the local authorities present in Wales work as partners with them.
They claim that 100% of Northern Ireland local authorities work in partnership with them. (fca6, 2010)
FCA have presence internationally whereas fostering solutions is based only in UK. Therefore having presence internationally could be a benefit to FCA over fostering solutions. There is a credibility, brand image and recognition that comes with being present in multiple countries.
FCA has presence in North Ireland whereas fostering solutions has no office/branch in Northern Ireland. FCA have a monopoly in Northern Ireland as none of the 8 competitors and fostering solutions do not have an office there.
*Turnover is the highest, but profit margin is not may be because the cost is also high. We assume that it could be because it maintains high cost to maintain quality and good service.
*financial data of 31-12-2008 only was available for FCA. Thomson research database showed inconclusive data of FCA having round about same turnover for 2009.
Therapist available for consultation for Fca, whereas Fostering solutions has no mention of providing such a service in their brochure.
Supporting foster carers in negotiating with schools and promoting the child’s educational needs, no mention of providing such a service in their brochure.
21 days paid respite per year vs 2 weeks paid respite provided by fostering solutions
FCA provides placement for disabled children which fostering solutions do not provide.
On consulting with Michelle she highlighted the costs associated with providing such a service and the specialised staff that would be required. In addition to this she added that placement of disabled children is only a small number. Nonetheless it’s a way in which foster care associates are competing with fostering solutions since they have the staff and specialisation to provide the placement even if its for a small number of placements.
Their major strengths are their presence in various locations across UK, with over 40 offices. They claim you are never more than 40 miles from an FCA office and their relationship with local authorities as highlighted above, since it’s the local authorities who are going to give them the placement for their foster carers. People prefer companies/agencies that are local in their presence in the fostering industry. Therefore FCA promotes themselves locally to be able to recruit foster carers efficiently.
National fostering agency
They are located at Cardiff, Lowestoft and Stirling with Head Office at Uxbridge.(nfa1, 2010)
Services provided (nfa2, 2010)
The national fostering agency believes that fostering is a service which is to be provided at a local level to be a successful fostering agency. They pride themselves in believing they provide a fostering service with local care and support along with national expertise.
Most of the centralised functions occur through their head and regional offices, the key job involving high quality placements for children remains with the local foster carer. The National Fostering Agency claim the foster carers are supported on a 24 hour basis by local professionally qualified and experienced Supervising Social workers.
The foster carers are provided support from a professionally qualified social worker
They provide a 24 hour telephone advice and support to the foster carers.
The provide one monthly visit and a weekly telephone call
There are various training and development opportunities
They provide foster carers the opportunity to meet with other foster carers at support groups
The foster carers are given good financial support for caring for the child
They provide membership of the Fostering Network to the foster carers.
They provide good legal protection insurance
The foster carers are provided regular foster carer’s news and information.
Placements provided (nfa3, 2010)
Task Centred Placements
Parent & Child Placements
Long Term Placements
Foster carer allowance – 366 pounds GBP PW(nfa4, 2010)
Financial Data FAME database th Gbp 2009
Profit before taxation
Number of employees
OFSTED Ratings(ofsted, 2010)
2 – good
When compared with fostering solutions NFA more or less provide the same range of basic services to foster carers.
They have just 4 offices across the UK but their turnover and profit margin is more than fostering solutions. (appendix c2). Their way of operating is, all referrals for placements throughout the UK are managed by four teams located in their offices at Lowestoft, Uxbridge, Cardiff and Stirling. They work in close ties with the regional social workers and thus manage to provide efficient placements.
Inspite of being present in only 4 locations their method of working closely with regional social worker staff gives them a local presence.
NFA have an interesting strategy to recruit foster carers. They have advertised on job search websites such as reed and jobsite for foster carer recruitment. This strategy has been followed by a number of companies though fostering solutions have not used this method of recruiting foster carers.(reed, 2010)
SWIIS Foster care
Location ( sw1,2010)
SWIIS Foster Care was formed in the year 2000 as an Independent Fostering Provider within the already successful SWIIS group of social care related companies.
They have their Head office in London with 6 more offices/branches in England and 4 offices/branches in Scotland.
Services provided (sw2,sw3, 2010)
SWIIS is dedicated to creating the best opportunities for children and young people in foster care:
They believe in creating the best outcomes for children and young people in foster care.
They provide a comprehensive package of social work, education and health
They work in close relations with placing authority social workers, local education, health and therapy providers
They provide each child or young person with a care package that addresses all of their needs
They claim to offer the best value for children, carers and placing authorities alike
They claim to work with local authorities to help them meet required Performance Indicators
They claim their placements provide demonstrable positive indicators of improvement for young people in the five key outcome areas namely – being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic well-being
They provide all the approved SWIIS foster carers extensive pre and post approval training – including the opportunity to take relevant social care training modules and NVQ programmes with the priority being given to issues such as Safer Caring and Managing Challenging Behaviour
They provide designated health professionals to support children for their health and is an outstanding provision in this area.
They make sure every effort is taken to ensure children and young people can reach to their potential in education by dedicated staff.
There are efficient resources in place to support the children with their education.
Types of Placements available (sw4, 2010)
– short term placements
– longer term.
– bridging placements
– respite placements
– placements provided for all age groups which includes higher aged teenagers, sibling groups and disabled children.
– short notice unplanned placements provided.
– Foster carer allowance – 400-580? PW- best in the industry.(sw5,2010)
Financial Data th GBP 2009
Profit before taxation 1074
Profit margin 8.04%
Number of employees 81
OFSTED ratings(ofsted- sw, 2010)
2 outstanding 3 good and 1 satisfactory
There is a designated education officer to help children with studies, no mention of any such service in fostering solutions brochure.
There is a designated health officer to advice foster carers on health issues for the children, no mention of any such service in fostering solutions brochure.
They provide the best financial package of all the fostering companies with 400 – 580ppw.
This could mean since they provide the foster carer a high allowance, they could be charging the local authority a high amount. There is lack of data available regarding charges to local authority by independent agencies and children placed.
By looking at their turnover and profit margin we can see that they have done well and ranked sixth in the turnover/profit margin index. This means they have been placing children from local authority to the foster carers.(refer to appendix c1 or above for turnover/profit margin)
They have the specialisation and staff to provide placement for children with disabilities provided, whereas as we have already looked above fostering solutions do not.
By The Bridge Fostering
They have branches/offices at Sittingbourne, Kent, Regional offices in Essex and Warwickshire and West London.
OFSTED Rating – 1
Only one ofsted report was found at ofsted inspection reports.
Outstanding (ofstedbythebridge, 2010)
They achieved iso 9001 accreditation in 2009
Advertising board deal with crystal palace football club- Marketing strategy to increase its brand awareness and reputation.
The by the bridge foster carers are committed and have a unique opportunity to enrol into a degree certificate in therapeutic fostering from the University of Greenwich.
Financial data th GBP 2009
Profit before taxation 2451
Profit margin 24.19%
Number of employees 40
By the Bridge fostering is a small agency with just 40 employees, but they have higher profit before taxation than fostering solutions. This could be due to lesser administration overheads due to its small size.
They are recruiting in East, South east, London and Midlands region.(refer to appendix c2)
Its key to note that by the bridge fostering has the best profit margin of all the 10 agencies.( refer to appendix,c1)
The foster carers are committed to a degree in therapeutic fostering. Thus they have an added incentive of becoming a foster carer as well as a chance to earn a degree certificate in therapeutic fostering. This could be a major attraction to foster carers in joining by the bridge fostering. This unique certificate in therapeutic fostering is provided which is a one year course covering transactional analysis theories combined with social work ideas to help understand what children and others do what they do and how can they be helped, no such service provided by fostering solutions.
Location (og1, 2010)
The Orange Grove fostering agency was taken over by Hillcrest foster care to operate under the Orange Grove Fostercare.
They have 10 Offices in England.
Types of placement available(og2, 2010)
Parent and baby – for young people chance to become a parent
Unaccompanied asylum seeking young people
Services provided to foster carers(og3, 2010)
They provide a minimum of 12 supervision visits by a local Social Worker
They provide additional support visits on a needs-led basis by our approved Social Workers or Family Support Workers
There is a minimum of 1 unannounced visit per annum
There is provision for 1 independently-led annual review per annum
They provide Psychological support on a needs-led basis plus additional support groups/surgeries as required
They provide Out of hours 365/24/7 on-call support service by local social work staff
They provide 14 nights of respite
They offer Retainer payments (subject to qualifying criteria)***
There is a monthly carer support meeting
The agency will endeavour, with the help and support of carers, to ensure that all carers have a Schedule 3 Respite Carer in place***
They provide a published programme of regular training
They provide training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (Fostering)/Management of Aggression with regular follow-up training
They provide birthday, Festival and Holiday allowances at The Fostering Network rates
There is a target of 4 regional activities per office for carers and children, e.g. Pantomime, Theme Parks, BBQs, etc
They provide a weekend break for birth children
They provide an independent Children’s Helpline to foster children and birth children
They provide an Independent allegation support service
Their Social Workers attend at all meetings, conferences, reviews, etc
They provide Educational support
There is an annual carer conference.
Hillcrest ( Orangegrove ) Financial data th gbp 2008
Profit before taxation 1906
Profit margin 7.94
Number of employees 526
(FAME,2010) to be done referencing
Foster carer allowance – 320-461ppw (og4, 2010)
OFSTED ratings(ofsted-og, 2010) 4 good 1 satisfactory
– Target of 4 regional activities per office for carers and children, e.g. Pantomime, Theme Parks, BBQs, etc, no mention of providing such a service by fostering solutions in their brochure.
-Training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, Birthday, Festival and Holiday allowances at the Fostering Network rates, Independent Children’s Helpline for foster children and birth children
-Independent allegation support service, no mention of providing such a service by fostering solutions in their brochure.
Strategy- orange grove provide a combination of an array of services to foster carers with an upper limit of allowance of 461ppw as compared to 390 being upper limit paid by fostering solutions. They are a strong competitor as they match with fostering solutions on services provided and also pay a competitive allowance whose upper limit is higher than fostering solutions.
Wide coverage in UK with presence in London, Yorkshire, Midlands, North West, Scotland, Cymru, Northern Ireland. (barnardos,2010)
Fostering and adoption
Research and influencing practice
Barnardos have more than around 100 years of experienced in the fostering industry. They have above 30 services recruiting a variety of carers across the United Kingdom.
What facilities they give the foster carers
They provide on-going relevant/specialist training
They provide 24-hour advice and back-up
They provide regular supervision from their friendly team
Provision of a generous fee and allowance
They provide careful and considered matching with a child
They provide the opportunity to lead the way in setting the highest standards for children and young people in foster care.
-permanent and long term
-parent and child
Foster carer allowance- 100-200ppw (cypnow,2010)
Current and future strategies and objectives
making barnardos influencing work more effective – looking to improve the extent to which lessons learnt from its work on the ground leaed to better outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Brand and image enhancement- it recognises it needs to be better at explaining to the public exactly how it works and what it stands for so that it can generate more support for its influencing work- Believe in Children- Strap line.
Implementing refreshed strategies for participation and volunteering.
Increasing net return from fundraising
Improving cost effectiveness of support functions both at head office and locally.
Loss before taxation -27358
Number of employees 7085
OFSTED RATINGS(ofsted-ba, 2010)
2 outstanding 8 good
They compete as a reputed company with 100 years experience in fostering. It’s a charity organisation in existence for a long time with presence in number of countries. They do fostering also as a part of helping children and young people.
Prospective foster carers might be attracted to foster with barnardos due to its brand name and reputation which could get them a placement quickly. They pay lower allowance to foster carers than any other company which means they might be charging the local authority less than any other independent agency.
They being a charity organisation, the prospective foster carers could feel a sense of social cause attachment to the organisation and could be a big plus for an agency like barnardos.
7 offices at
Birmingham, Devon, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset, Kent and London.
All those preparing to become foster carers will attend two days of Skills to Foster training followed by one day of CWDC Workshop training. This gives a detailed picture of what fostering is about and looks more closely at developing the skills and kno