The Department for Education (DfE) has published a guide for local authorities completing the 2015-2016 private fostering data return.
A privately fostered child is defined as being under the age of 16 (18 if disabled) and cared for by someone other than a parent or close relative, as defined by Children Act 1989, s 105. Private foster carers may be from an extended family, such as a cousin or great uncle. They may be a friend of the family, or other non-relative, or someone unknown who has advertised to offer to privately foster a child. A child is not privately fostered if the person caring for him or her has done so for fewer than 28 days and does not intend to do so for longer than that. Privately fostered children are a diverse and potentially vulnerable group. Groups of privately fostered children include children sent from abroad to stay with another family.
The PF1 statistical return was introduced from 1 April 2004 and is designed to collect information on the number of children reported to be in private fostering arrangements in England. This is the 12th year of collection. PF1 data is submitted electronically by local authorities (LAs), using the DfE's secure IT system - COLLECT.
A PF1 return is required from all local authorities in England, even those who have no children reported to be under private fostering arrangements. All completed PF1 returns should be returned to the DfE by Tuesday 31 May 2016. There have been no changes since the 2014 to 2015 collection.