More money for foster carers as numbers decline
FEES and allowances for foster carers in South Gloucestershire are being increased – as a report finds that the number of carers in the area is falling.
The council’s cabinet has agreed to put £300,000 extra into its budget for foster fees, with particular attention to supporting children with more complex needs.
Cabinet member for children and young people Jon Hunt said the changes would bring the council into line with neighbouring areas, where carers have previously been paid more.
Charity the Fostering Network says the majority of carers complaint that their allowance does not cover the cost of fostering.
The most recent Ofsted data shows that, at the end of March last year, 105 children were in foster care in South Gloucestershire, five fewer than a year previously.
The number of carers approved to foster them also decreased, to 155 – 10 down on the same time in 2017.
In total, there were 170 places available for foster children in South Gloucestershire last year.
Across the country, the number of approved foster carers has dropped each of the last two years – there were around 73,500 last March.
But demand on the service has continued to increase, with more children in placements each year. There were more than 53,000 children in care last March, 5% more than in 2012-13, for when numbers are first provided.
The council says it wants to maximise its ability to recruit and retain foster carers within a highly competitive regional market and with the broader context of a regional and national shortage of carers.
A spokesperson said: “This additional funding will enable South Gloucestershire to match the fees and allowances of competing local authorities (other than Gloucester) and private providers in the area. It will help ensure our fostering service remains competitive, attractive to new foster carers and supports the retention of our current foster carers.”
The funding will also support a ‘fostering plus’ scheme for a small number of specialist carers, who are able to care for children and young people with highly complex needs. This will help achieve savings in the long run, as many young people with complex needs have previously proved difficult to place in-house and have necessitated high cost placements within independent provision.
Mr Hunt said: “We recognise South Gloucestershire’s foster carers for the important but difficult task they do and we are pleased to be able to provide this additional support.
“Bringing our fees and allowances in to line with our neighbouring local authorities will enable us to strengthen our current position and effectiveness in recruiting and retaining foster cares regionally. These up lifts to fees and allowances compare favourably to those of our neighbours and independent provision, and help to reduce our spend on independent high cost provision.”
You can find more information about fostering in South Gloucestershire here.
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