Becki Meakin, General Manager of Shaping Our Lives said:

‘Shaping Our Lives is delighted to be part of this innovative project.  Disabled people have an insight into successful parenting from their own lived experience and can apply strategies to fostering that would be very beneficial to looked after children. Shaping Our Lives has worked with a range of service providers to identify the structural and attitudinal barriers that exclude disabled people and will offer foster agencies a model of working that is inclusive to a broad range of people including potential disabled foster carers.’

The University of Worcester has been awarded £142,000 as part of a £5 million National Lottery funded research programme into independent living for disabled people. This  funding has come via DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) programme, a five year scheme launched in 2015 led by disabled people and funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

The research project, entitled ‘Mutual Benefits – The potential of disabled people as foster carers’ will be jointly run by Dr. Peter Unwin, Principal  Social Work Lecturer, ‘Shaping Our Lives’ National User Network and Malvern – based Foster Care Co-Operative agency. Disabled members from Shaping Our Lives and members of the University’s own service user and carer group, IMPACT, will use their lived experiences to shape the project.

The aim of the two year project is to explore why there are so few disabled foster carers at a time when there is an estimated 7,000 shortfall of foster carers. Dr Unwin said:

‘We see this as an opportunity to change the minds of professionals and disabled people about the potential of disabled foster carers. There is an over-representation of disabled children in care, yet there are very few disabled foster carers to act as positive role models. You often see adverts in the press and on the back of buses asking if you have considered fostering / do you want to earn an income and do you have a spare room but you will never see one inviting disabled people to come forward”.

The project aims to recruit four foster agencies across England  and to explore their approaches and attitudes toward disability, before working with them in ways designed to make practice disability-friendly. The outcomes of the project will be used to inform practice nationally and internationally.

Evan Odell, DRILL programme officer at Disability Rights UK said:

“We’re delighted to be funding this project, run by and for disabled

people. The results will help support disabled people to live more

independently, and be part of the communities they live in.”

Launched in 2015, the DRILL programme is fully funded by the Big Lottery Fund and delivered by Disability Rights UK, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Wales. DRILL is funding more than 30 research and pilot projects over a 5 year period, all led by disabled people.

Contact information@shapingourlives .org.uk if you would like to share your experiences of trying to become a foster carer

For further media enquiries:

Will Norman Copywriter & Communications Officer Communications & Participation University of Worcester 01905 54 2088 w.norman@worc.ac.uk

Dr.Peter Unwin Principal Lecturer in Social Work University of Worcester WR2 6AJ p.unwin@worc.ac.uk 01905 855126

Ben Furner DRILL T: 01273 463461 M: 07946 355795 www.furnercommunications.co.uk

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