Conservative controlled Redbridge Council has decided that smokers won’t be allowed to foster children after January 2010.  This BBC report says councillors decided it unanimously – actually I understand it was a vote of the Cabinet rather than the full Council. Anyway. Even if the foster carer undertakes only to smoke on balconies or in gardens the ban will still apply. Even if the children are teenagers rather than the under-fives who are reckoned to be more vulnerable to smoke. Even if they are not a heavy smoker.

The evidence of passive smoking being harmful is much disputed. A stronger argument against parents smoking is that it sets a bad example. I don’t smoke which may partly be because since I was born my parents didn’t smoke.

So if potential foster parents for a particular child seem otherwise equally suitable it would be reasonable to choose the non-smoker rather than the smoker. But to make smoking the key determinant is bonkers. Given the array of challenges foster carers face and the importance of attracting those able to meet them the matter  of whether they smoke or not is marginal. Just think of the scenario we now face in Redbridge. Someone has the  courage, resilience and ability to turn round the life of a damaged, disturbed young person currently on a conveyor belt to prison. This potential foster carer is turned down, or doesn’t even apply, because they smoke. It is no good pretending all foster carers are wonderful. Some are but some aren’t. We need to attract the best possible. Redbridge have decided not to do so.

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