03 Apr 2019 Food as a safeguarding issue – a call to action.
Children in Care are among the most disadvantaged groups with higher mental and physiological health needs than their peers outside of the care system. They often display abnormal food related behaviours and can come into care with a poor nutritional status (1).
Decisions about how food is provided and consumed has a fundamental impact on the relationships and dynamics within a care setting. Food practices have massive potential for creating an environment where children can begin to feel part of a family unit. Whereas healthy eating habits throughout the life course will reduce the risk of health problems in later life. It is important that the food and eating patterns to which young people are exposed to promote positive relationships with food and good nutrition.
Although food is at the very heart of all aspects of care, the importance and key role of nutrition and positive food practices in care are currently underestimated and not effectively highlighted in social care policies. Yet, carers receive no or limited support around nutrition and food behaviour issues often encountered in care settings (2).
Food as a safeguarding issue
Food in Care programme, led by Food Active, has published a position statement on ‘Food as a safeguarding issue’ to frame the issue, both at a national and North West perspective. The aim was to provide a brief review of the evidence, initiatives or regulations currently in place to tackle the issue and call to action on the matter (3).
Briefly, the position statement highlights:
- Supporting children to develop healthy eating behaviours and relationships with food is a far wider issue than simply understanding and preparing healthy food for children
- There is inadequate statutory resource and support to up-skill carers in the importance of food in care
- There is an urgent need to adapt strategy and practice to ensure that food and nutrition including the broader psychological aspects of food is included in all aspects of caring for Children in Care.
- It is essential that children’s services and policy makers take a whole systems approach to create a healthier environment for Children in Care.
Tackling food issues in children’s care sector
A step-based approach is essential in children’s social care sector to raise the profile of food and nutrition as safeguarding issues. Therefore, Food Active has partnered with several national organisations, including: Foster Talk, BECOME charity, National Fostering Agency and National Association of Fostering Providers and with a few local authorities (Tameside & Glossop, Knowsley) to develop Food in Care charter as a first important step towards better health outcomes for children and young people in care.
Call to action – we want to hear your views!
We are currently running a survey with foster carers, connected carers, adopters, residential staff, managers, LAC nurses, Independent Reviewing Officers and other professionals to share their views about the support that is currently available around nutrition and food behaviour issues often encountered in care settings. This survey will look in detail what support is currently available, what are the gaps, what works and how things could be changed or improved.
The results of the survey, along with other information such as academic journals will inform the development of the Food in Care charter. Therefore, we would like to ask you to take part in this short online survey. Your views will be valuable and will be kept confidential.
Food in Care programme
The Food in Care programme offers training package that is aimed to support Children in Care to develop a healthy relationship with food. The training can be delivered as either train-the-trainer programme or as a direct, face to face training. The next train-the-trainer course is taking place on the 15th and 16th May 2019 in Manchester City Centre. New online Food in Care course has also been launched in the last month through collaboration with AC Education.
Attendance on the Food in Care course equips participants with detailed knowledge and skills of nutrition and the impact this has on physical and mental health and well-being. Participants will gain insight and the ability to look beyond the child’s food-related behaviour, to understand the root causes and learn strategies and techniques to help the child.
If you would like to learn more about the Food in Care programme, the training options or about the Food in Care charter, please contact Magdalena Przybylka on 0151 237 2686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Warman A. (2016) Eating well and nurturing others: the role of food in good fostering practice, Adoption and Fostering, Sage journals, Vol 40, Issue 2.
- Cann R. and Lawson K. (2016) CUTS the view from foster carers the impact of austerity measures on fostered children and the families that care for them, The Fostering Network.
- Food Active (2018) Food as a safeguarding issue. Position statement. Available online: https://foodactive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Position-Statement-Food-in-Care2.pdf