WHEN Jimmy and Christine Johnstone became foster carers in 2011 they had no idea that eight years later they would be asking friends and strangers to help raise up to £20,000 to support them in their quest for justice. The story began in 2015 when the couple were caring for a young person with a variety of complex needs on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

They were part of a highly successful fostering scheme called Treatment Foster Care which the social work department ran at that time to allow some of the city’s most vulnerable and emotionally troubled young people to live in a family setting where they could receive the nurture and support that can be missing in a residential care setting.

The Johnstones asked the team that supported them for help and advice as the situation was becoming more concerning and other agencies were indicating that the young person and the couple’s lives were in danger. This request was initially met with a wall of silence then, when pressed, the response was to the effect that “foster carers are self-employed, your welfare is not our concern”. It appeared that the only avenue open to Jimmy and Christine was to prove that they were not self-employed but rather workers who deserved the rights that most of us take for granted.

With the help of the Independent Workers union of Great Britain (IWGB), the Johnstones were delighted to receive notification in 2017 that the judge had agreed not only that they were workers but also were council employees and as such Glasgow City Council did have a duty of care towards them. Normally this should have been the end of the matter and they would have got on with the job but so adamant was the council that the couple’s welfare was not Glasgow’s concern that they have again engaged the services of an elite QC to fight the ruling and put this couple in their place.

Glasgow City Council has a £2 billion a year turnover and seems so keen to drive its message home over foster carers that it is willing to throw tens of thousands of council tax-payers’ money into appealing a case it has already lost.

This couple, who came into the fostering role to help children who were struggling and needed a temporary home, are now faced with having to find money to fund this unnecessary appeal. Perhaps the council did not expect the Johnstones’ tenacity. For the last three years they have bravely stood their ground and repeatedly told the council that they did not want a financial settlement, they wanted their rights as employees to be recognised. They are aware that this case is about much more than just them, it is about the right of every foster carer to be given the same protection as any other local government worker.

The Johnstones are not asking for anything outrageous or selfish, they are simply asking to have the same employee rights as those who ignored their original pleas for help. In Treatment Foster Care a team of around six different professionals were responsible for the care of the young people, but ironically the only person in that team with no legal protection is the person who spends the most time with the young person and opens their home to them, the foster carer.