New national minimum allowances for foster carers proposed by the government this week have been set at “disastrously low levels”, a charity has warned.
The Fostering Network said the allowances, set out in a consultation document from the Department for Education and Skills, were in some cases £80 a week below what it had recommended.
It accused the DfES of basing the allowances on out-of-date information and claimed both foster carers and children would lose out.
The allowances, which are the first ever suggested by the government, are drawn from a 1995 study on the cost of looking after children, coupled with estimates for wear and tear and the increased amount needed for a fostered child.
The 1995 figures have been increased to 2004-5 levels by linking them to rises in average earnings.
But the Fostering Network policy and campaigns manager Vicki Swain said the allowances would not meet the full cost of fostering because they did not take travel, fuel or housing expenses into account.
Spending habits had also changed since 1995, which was before the widespread use of mobile phones, PlayStations and DVDs, she argued.
Swain said half of England’s councils already paid its recommended allowances and a level set below that would be a backward step.
The charity’s head, Robert Tapsfield, said the “disastrously low levels” would make recruitment of foster carers more difficult.
Association of Directors of Social Services fostering lead Andrew Christie said the financial consequences of introducing the allowances would vary from area to area, but local authorities would not reduce their rates where they already paid above the recommended rates.
He welcomed a DfES commitment to meet any extra costs and hoped the money would be ringfenced.
Baaf Adoption and Fostering chief executive Felicity Collier said she had hoped the allowances would be broadly similar to the Fostering Network’s. She urged foster carers, young people and social workers to take part in the consultation.
The final allowances are expected to be announced in July.
Consultation ends on 25 April. National Minimum Fostering Allowances from www.dfes.gov.uk
National Weekly Minimum Fostering Allowance
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