N Ireland plans 24-hour helpline

Foster carers in Northern Ireland will be able to access
round-the-clock helplines under plans unveiled by the country’s
four health and social services boards.

The draft foster care strategy proposes establishing regional
helplines, staffed by experienced foster carers or social workers
and operating out-of-hours, to give foster carers better support,
advice and guidance. It could be introduced in 2006-7.

The £6m, five-year strategy also pledges to offer foster
carers more respite time, free advocacy and legal advice if they
are subject to an investigation, and the development of regional
training strategies.

Recent research into foster care in the country found services were
underfunded by £28m, resulting in difficulties in recruiting

Allowance rates for Northern Ireland’s foster carers are almost
half the levels recommended by the Fostering Network, and the
strategy states that the gap needs to be addressed “urgently”. It
recommends that rates be increased “over and above inflation” and
should be more closely linked to payments to the assessed needs of
the child.

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