Foster Carers Are ‘Out Of Pocket’
Foster carers in Wales are struggling to cover the costs of raising children, according to a charity. Fostering Network Wales is calling on the assembly government to introduce a compulsory minimum allowance.
A charity report suggests three-quarters of local authorities are not paying the recommended amount.
The assembly government said its aim was to “establish a standard allowance and support package commensurate” with the level of care provided.
The charity argued that the minimum required to care for an extra child should start from £118.60 a week for children under four, and go up to £168.18 for a teenager.
It said only five of the 22 Welsh local authorities were paying their foster carers its recommended minimum rates.
Freda Lewis, director of Fostering Network Wales, said: “A national minimum allowance was introduced in England last year but still one in eight local authorities are not paying it because it is not compulsory.
“We do not want to see this happening in Wales. It is hardly surprising that there is a recruitment crisis when local authorities are not even paying foster carers enough to pay for the basics.”
Jacqui Handley, who has been fostering children for eight years with her husband Mike, said they had been dipping into their own funds rather than see their foster children go without. Mrs Handley, from Newport, south east Wales, calculated that they had spent about £15,000 of their own money since they started caring.
“Your finances are affected – you want to do for your foster children as you would your own children,” she said.
“Foster carers need an identified wage – to make them feel respected. The work we do is 24/7.”
In addition to raising her two sons, Mrs Handley and her husband have fostered 26 children.
They both work as child minders and Mrs Handley said this allowed her to carry on with the fostering.
She said in addition to the financial side there was a need to look at support packages for carers.
“It’s difficult trying to maintain work while fostering – there are so many of the children’s needs to be addressed.
“If you’re fostering a sibling group, it’s easier in some ways than three different children, who have all got different needs and you have to deal with three different social workers,” Mrs Handley added.
A spokesperson for the assembly government said: “We recognise and value the important role that foster carers play in caring for vulnerable children and young people.
“Local authorities as corporate parents, have a responsibility to ensure the best package of care for the child and to support the foster carer in providing this.
“To strengthen placement stability and support for foster care including allowances from 2007/08 an additional £6.1m was made available to local authorities,” he added.
“To ensure foster carers get the support they deserve, we are commissioning work to refine the calculation with an aim to establish a standard allowance and support package commensurate with the level and complexity of the care that foster carers provide.”