Action for Children
Action for Children is one of the UK’s largest children’s charities and offers a wide range of services to children in care, young people and disabled children, including support to foster carers. But, while the charity received 247 enquiries from prospective carers in 2012/2013, its own research found that widespread misconceptions were preventing people from applying to be carers.
The public believed that renters, full-time employed people, single people, men and women over 55 and gay people could not foster. These myths were creating a significant shortage of carers. It has been estimated that the UK faces a shortage of 9,000 foster carers.
Initially, Action for Children considered an advertising campaign to bust these myths, but instead opted for a creative communications campaign, that brought together teams across the charity and would engage with potential foster carers who wrongly believed they were ineligible.
Working with the Children’s Services team, Action for Children’s in-house team developed 15 real-life stories from foster families. But the communications team also worked to explain its role, to encourage colleagues in Children’s Services to help them shape their messaging and communications and also to identify real-life stories that would resonate with a wider audience and bust the myths.
For example, three years ago Tracy and Jenny, who live on the Isle of Skye, became the first same-sex couple to foster in Scotland. The charity also told the story of 50 year old Margaret, who gave up her full-time job so that she could look after children in care. These stories were told on the television, in case studies provided to the media and on Action for Children’s website.
An online Myth Busting Academy was created, supported by social media and videos, to humanise the subject. The communications team also changed its strategy to do more to keep in touch with and listen to staff and volunteers. A new Communications Planner allows the charity to spot opportunities early.
As a result, the campaign secured 351 pieces of coverage and attracted 734 new fostering enquiries – up 203 per cent on the previous recruitment drive. ‘The team used communication instead of marketing to support the campaign, and saved money,’ said the judges. ‘They achieved great outputs.’