Scotland’s foster carers are overburdened, struggling financially and are prevented from accessing training, a major review has found.
The Fostering Network study, one of the most comprehensive undertaken in Scotland, finds that the shortage of foster carers is so acute in the country that a quarter of them look after four or more children, despite there being a limit of three fostered children per family in the rest of the UK.
It says the shortage is made worse by three out of five carers receiving no fee for fostering. Even in areas that do offer payments, they are not always at a level allowing carers to give up work. Both parents are employed outside the home in half of two-carer households.
Half of carers were dissatisfied with the level of allowances and felt they did not cover the cost of looking after a fostered child, with some councils not paying the Fostering Network’s recommended rates. Access to training is also limited, the report says.
Bryan Ritchie, director of the Fostering Network Scotland, said these issues needed to be addressed if the shortfall of 1,700 foster families was to be reduced.
“Providing carers with an allowance which actually covers the costs of looking after a fostered child, a fee enabling them to extend their commitment to fostering and proper training opportunities would be a huge first step towards tackling the shortage,” he added.
The report surveyed 693 foster carers, 25 of Scotland’s 32 councils, four voluntary agencies and two independent providers.