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New 'Business Champion' - Fostering Solutions.

12 May 2010

Fostering Solutions extend caring ethos to at-work driving to gain Government 'Business Champion' status.

Staff morale improvements, a reduction in employee absenteeism and insurance premium reductions are among the main benefits of a high-profile at-work driving safety policy implemented by Fostering Solutions, which has gained national recognition.

Bolton-headquartered Fostering Solutions is an independent foster care agency operating 60 company cars located at a number of regional offices and managing 720 foster carers who use their own vehicles notable to transport children and young people placed in their care.

Fostering Solutions expect all staff to report all accidents and near misses. As a result of that culture, a full investigation of all incidents is undertaken to identify factors which increase risk to personnel. Any corrective actions required are then disseminated through internal Fostering Solutions communication links.

As a result, the organisation has a first class safety record that in the three financial years from 2006 to 2009 saw just 11 incidents reported, all non-blameworthy. In 2009-10 six incidents were reported all as a result of company cars skidding during the January/February ‘Arctic blitz’; although staff do not drive in adverse weather conditions unless absolutely necessary, in the event of emergencies involving children they have little choice but to do so.

With a very low traffic accident rate, no insurance premium increase incurred for three years and the implementation of safe-driving policies and procedures to include the ‘grey’ fleet - people who drive their own cars on work-related trips - Fostering Solutions has become the 44th organisation to become a ‘business champion’ under the Government-backed ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign.

Bernie Gibson, Fostering Solutions’ director of operations, said: “We are delighted to have been recognised as a ‘business champion’. For an organisation such as ours where safeguarding is central to all we do, being a ‘champion’ provides us with the external recognition for our commitment to all aspects of safety for our staff, foster carers and the children in our care.

“Fostering Solutions celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and we are extremely proud of the outstanding service that our staff continue to provide to ensure positive outcomes for children and young people.”

The campaign is delivered by RoadSafe and the ‘business champions’ are used to promote the financial, legal and moral reasons for organisations across the public and private sectors to invest in at-work driving safety.

There are an estimated up to 200 road deaths and serious injuries a week resulting from crashes involving at work drivers, and more employees are killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads while driving on behalf of their employer than in any other work-related activity.

All Fostering Solutions’ company cars are Renault Meganes, which are driven an average 10,000 miles a year on business to and from regional offices and local authorities throughout the UK and for regular visits to the homes of foster carers. The vehicles were chosen due to their top five-star performance in European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests and wide range of safety features fitted as standard.

Fostering Solutions’ foster carers’ driving activities include travel to and from local regional offices and training venues, attending meetings and reviews at various locations and taking children and young people to and from school.

A special foster carers’ driving policy has been developed to provide them with clear information about the implications of transporting children and young people in their care and to assist them with risk awareness.

Fostering Solutions’ undertake annual checks on all foster carer car documentation as part of a ‘general risk assessment’. In addition, all foster carers are required to ensure that their vehicles are fitted with a car seat or booster appropriate for the age of the person in their care and that they meet British safety standards and are fitted correctly in their vehicle.

In relation to company cars, the organisation’s health and safety policy document dictates that:

• All vehicles, private or leased, driven on behalf of Fostering Solutions must be maintained in a safe condition.
• It is the responsibility of the driver of the vehicle to ensure that it is maintained in a safe condition and that any defects are reported and repaired.
• All accidents must be reported in accordance with Fostering Solutions’ accident reporting procedure.
• Annual driver licence checks are carried out for all Fostering Solutions staff driving on behalf of the operation. • When a member of staff uses their own vehicle and is in receipt of a company car allowance or fuel allowance, an annual check is also carried out to ensure that insurance with business use cover, MoT certificate, driving licence, vehicle log book and Vehicle Excise Duty are up to date.

Additionally, the Fostering Solutions’ driver handbook includes advice on a wide range of key issues including: national speed limits and stopping distances, journey planning, avoiding tiredness and fatigue when driving, the use of mobile phones, personal safety including lone driving, vehicle maintenance, wheel changing, dealing with a vehicle breakdown or incident and vehicle security.

Mrs Gibson said: “We have been able to keep the number of blameworthy incidents at a low level because visual safe driving advice posters are displayed in each regional office; advice from external sources is actively sought; all Fostering Solutions vehicles are maintained on a regular basis and approved servicing and maintenance schedules are followed; and all staff are updated on any new legislation affecting driving for work.

“The development of a culture of internal communication on road safety within the company has been vital to achieving the benefits identified. Effective communication of road risk policy, procedures and new processes through existing management structures and communication channels is now an essential part of Fostering Solutions management ethos.

“Social workers and foster carers are by nature, responsible and self disciplined people. The training package provides them with information on which they are able to reassess how they might be able better to carry out their driving activities more safely. A significant benefit of the package is that they also grow to understand that Fostering Solutions is keen to carry out its duty of care responsibilities seriously and that they are the primary beneficiaries of this.”

Michael Parish, programme consultant for the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said: “Despite having an exemplary safe driving record, Fostering Solutions has still embraced the importance of managing occupational road risk to ensure that a culture of safety operates across all aspects of its business.

“The safety of ‘grey’ fleet drivers is a major issue for all employers and Fostering Solutions has shown that it is easily possible to extend a safe-driving culture to include people who drive their own cars on business trips.”

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