Cardiff council offers free spa days to foster carers

A FREE five-star spa day is on offer in a bid to persuade people to become foster carers. But the new plans aimed at attracting carers for the city’s most vulnerable children have come in for withering criticism.

Cardiff council is offering the free pampering pass to the top-end St David’s Hotel & Spa in Cardiff Bay to people who recommend a potential foster parent and the proposed carer.

The hotel’s website boasts that the fully-equipped facility was voted one of the top 15 spas in the world.

The offer has been publicised to Cardiff council’s 18,000 staff as part of a wider marketing campaign.

In the message, it said: “Should you refer a friend to the scheme and they are approved, you will both receive a one-day pass into the spa at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay.

“Here you can swim, relax in the sauna, sip on free soft drinks overlooking the Bay or, if you are feeling energetic enough, use the gym!”

But Coun Jayne Cowan said she was appalled by the offer.

She said: “To offer this incentive is totally and utterly unacceptable. We should be asking carers to apply because they want to, not be cajoled into it in return for a luxury spa day.

“The money we are spending on this treat should be ploughed back into the social services budget to provide care and protection for our vulnerable children and adults.

“What will be next – a holiday to the South of France if you apply to be a social worker?”

Simon Harris-Dack, 41, who fosters a child in Porth, said foster carers would be better encouraged to care for a vulnerable child with improved support and conditions.

He said: “A spa day does seem to be a funny way of going about recruiting a foster carer.

“There’s better ways to encourage people into fostering. Improving the rates of pay and the support would be a start.”

Cardiff council’s in-house service has 408 foster carers and buys placements with independent fostering agencies.

Not all foster carers are paid. The amount of money given to carers in the UK ranges from nothing to £300 a week depending on the children being looked after.

A council spokesman defended the offer, saying the recruitment exercise was aimed at recruiting carers for teenage children for whom there is a limited choice of placement.

The council currently cares for 520 children.

The spokesman said: “The spa day offer is intended to be an innovative approach to attracting interest in a serious campaign to recruit foster carers for vulnerable children who are looked after by the council.

“It will be evaluated alongside other approaches to recruiting foster carers.

“The cost of this initiative is small, amounting to £50 per foster carer recruited through the scheme, which will run for just two weeks in September.

“People who are approved as foster carers are required to demonstrate considerable commitment during an intensive assessment process.

“To suggest that they would engage in such a process for the sake of a spa day, however enjoyable this might be, suggests a misunderstanding of foster care and the people approved to provide it.”