Foster Carers Going Unpaid, Says Report

Most foster carers in the UK are receiving either no payment at all or less than the minimum wage in return for caring for damaged and vulnerable young people, according to a survey out today.

A report by the Fostering Network reveals a postcode lottery for foster carers, in which 40% receive no fees in return for their work, apart from an allowance to cover a child’s direct expenses. Three-quarters of the total are paid nothing or less than £200 a week – the equivalent of the minimum wage.

The charity warns that low pay levels are pushing many foster families into poverty, as the needs of fostered children often mean carers are unable, or forbidden by some fostering services, to take on paid work to top up their income.

The lack of payment is “unsustainable”, according to the report, which warns the government has no hope of tackling the shortage of 10,000 foster carers in the UK, and will lose existing carers.

The study, Can’t Afford To Foster, argues the problem is compounded by the dramatic rise in expectations of foster carers, whose role has changed in recent years from volunteer to professional.

They are now expected to be capable of handling complex tasks, including ensuring children have contact with their families, attending court hearings or meetings with professionals, and keeping detailed records, as well as being skilled in child development and understanding the impact of abuse. Ministers also plan a registration scheme and qualification framework.

The Fostering Network’s chief executive, Robert Tapsfield, said: “Foster carers are increasingly required to work full time and take on complex duties and responsibilities but often they are treated as volunteers when it comes to pay. Foster carers do not and should not foster because of the money but neither should society expect them to do it for love alone.”

The report calls on the government to introduce fees to reflect the requirements of individual fostering placements on a scale comparable with others working with children.