Foster Carers Possessing Guns and Weapons
Swindon Borough Council Children's Services welcomes fostering, adoption and special guardian applications from a range of people, some of whom may be in possession of licensed guns.
Whilst Swindon Borough Council acknowledges the rights of individuals to own licensed guns and other weapons not requiring a licence, this Local Authority will first and foremost consider the needs and any potential risk to children who are looked after.
Research tells us that where guns are present, more people die, whether this is from accidents, suicides, assaults or crime. Massacres such as those committed by Derrick Bird on 2nd June 2010 in Cumbria, where 12 people were killed and 11 others injured show the extent to which adults and children can be killed and injured through individuals possessing legal firearms.
Swindon Borough Council however acknowledges that guns are owned in both rural and urban areas for recreational, sporting and other legitimate reasons. Target rifle and pistol shooting is a well-established sport and recreation and is one of the top three participation sports in the UK. In addition shotguns are owned for game shooting, clay pigeon shooting, vermin control and competition shooting.
Unlike the USA, individuals in the UK do not have an automatic right to possess guns. Individuals can be granted a certificate by the Police to possess a firearm or shotgun. Applicants must satisfy the Police they are fit to be entrusted with a firearm, have a good reason for possession, and they pose no danger to the public.
Safekeeping of shotguns and firearms is a requirement of the granting of certificates. Guns and ammunition must be stored securely and separately to prevent as far as possible unauthorised people taking or using them. The recommendation is that this should be in a locked gun cabinet or other secure container.
Owners sometimes keep guns at their homes because gun clubs do not have premises, or have the security in place to store large numbers of guns.
Many other recreational activities may post a risk to children and young people either in themselves or as a result of equipment used. Horse-riding and skiing are considered to be relatively high risk pursuits for example and ownership of a crossbow or long bow would pose a risk to fostered children.
In determining the safety of a child in a particular foster home all risks need to be assessed and risk appropriately ameliorated.
This policy deals exclusively with the ownership of firearms.
Swindon Borough Council considers that ownership of licensed firearms and shotguns, unlicensed weapons and replica guns can pose a risk to the safety of children in that person's care. Therefore where potential or existing foster carers, prospective adopters or prospective special guardians, or anyone else in the family household, have a certificate for the possession of a shotgun or firearm or have unlicensed weapons and replica guns on the premises a thorough risk assessment of the safety factors for children will be undertaken as part of the assessment of their suitability as carers.
The individuals seeking approval or re-approval will be advised that the safest option is for any firearms, shotguns and other weapons and their ammunition to be always stored away from the family home.
There must be good reason for the local authority to consider that the weapons may be stored in the family home. If the weapons are to be stored at the family home they must be kept at all times in a commercially manufactured gun cabinet according to Home Office recommendations. Removal of the weapons from the cabinet must only be during transit to a gun club or for approved activities and must be contained in a secure case.
Examples of good reason for storage of weapons at the family home include situations where:
- The family live and work on a farm;
- Someone living in the family home is a member of a gun club that has no safe storage facility.
The carers will be advised that children should not be involved with any activities involving weapons unless they are properly supervised and are part of an organised shooting/sporting activity (e.g. Army Cadets, shooting sports). The child's Social Worker and those with parental responsibility must always give permission in writing before a child or young person can be involved in activities involving weapons.
At the point of initial assessment all applicants must be asked whether they hold or have access to firearms.
Where applicants confirm that they hold a firearm or shotgun (or an air rifle which expels more than 12ft per pound of kinetic energy), a current certificate must be seen and a copy placed on file.
The assessing social worker must see where all guns, weapons and ammunition are stored. They must be separately secured in such a way that they could not be accessed by children or young people (i.e. away from the family home or approved gun storage cabinet).
Assessing social workers must be confident that applicants are fully aware of the risks of firearms and weapons and use them in a responsible manner. The holding of firearms or other weapons must be recorded in the assessment report and reported to the panel for fostering or adoption or the appropriate manager for special guardians.
If a foster carer has firearms on their premises this must be considered by the child's social worker as part of the matching and risk assessment. For some children where they have experienced violence in their family of origin it may not be appropriate to place where there are guns on the premises. In all cases an age appropriate discussion must take place with the child prior to placement assuring them of the safety arrangements for keeping the guns and for what purpose they are used.
As part of the foster carer's annual review, the security of guns, weapons and ammunition and the ownership of a current (certificates last for 5 years) firearms/shotgun certificate must be verified.
Any concerns about the storage, use of firearms, or lack of a certificate either at the Review or at any other time, must be immediately reported to the Service Manager Children Looked After and Team Manager Fostering. The social workers for the children in placement must also be informed.
The Police will be notified where applicants are found to have firearms/shotgun and no certificate. SBC will regard this as a very serious breach of policy and procedure which may result in a recommendation for removal of the children in placement and de-registration of the foster carer.
4. Information About Licences
Applications need to be made to the local Police force through the Firearms Registry. All details regarding this process can be found on the Wiltshire Police website.
Useful information can also be found on Ask the Police.