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  • Dominic Ridley-Moy

John Lewis and why fostering is having a moment


The film Childhood highlights the positive impact fostering has on siblings Sophie and Charlie, who were previously neglected.

There’s something in the air this Christmas around fostering. The John Lewis festive ad – featuring a soon-to-be foster dad trying to skateboard in preparation for the arrival of a child with the same hobby – has touched people’s hearts.


But will it nudge more of them into coming forward as foster carers? And, if it does, how can we use behaviour change to make sure they are in in for the long haul?


Local authorities in England certainly hope the ad will have an impact. In fact, some 60 of them jointly funded their own short film – equally tugging at the heartstrings – with the premiere coming just a few weeks before the John Lewis ad aired. Called simply “Childhood”, the councils’ film highlights the positive impact fostering has on siblings Sophie and Charlie, who were previously neglected.


More than 100,000 children could enter care over the next three years, according to the County Councils Network. The estimated cost to smaller local authorities could be as much as 60% of their annual budgets. This financial burden would be dramatically reduced if more of the recruitment happened in-house. As it stands, councils need to pay the independent fostering sector for around one-third of their placements, with cost-per-placement far higher too. In areas where private sector foster carers are thin on the ground too, many children have to be placed into residential care. This generally results in less positives outcomes for the children, and costs significantly more than a fostering placement.


Around a dozen local authority fostering teams are currently using the “Childhood” film in paid-for marketing campaigns run by CAN Digital – who supported the making and launch of the film and for the last two years have been trialling ways in which councils can use behaviour change theory to help them recruit foster carers.


It is known that once people have considered fostering, they understandably spend a long time working out if and when to apply. In terms of marketing campaigns, this means finding ways to suss out those who are serious and keeping their interest warm with frequent nudges via digital data insights. This is a much more efficient approach than just continually filling up the top of the marketing funnel with everyone whose conscience has been pricked by the John Lewis ad.


More information If you’re in local authority communications or foster care recruitment, CAN Digital has also

set up the Foster Care Recruitment Hub, alongside Westco, with free monthly webinars,

benchmarking activity, and plenty of other advice. You can catch up with the latest hub webinar – The importance of website landing pages – on YouTube, or get in touch with CAN’s John Cooper if you’re interested in hearing more: john.cooper@can-digital.net

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