Sixty Second Interview with Robert Tapsfield
By Amy Taylor
Robert Tapsfield is chief executive of The Fostering Network. Here he talks to Amy Taylor about the government’s proposals for allowances for foster carers.
You have described the national minimum allowances for foster carers proposed by the government as being set at “disastrously low levels”. What do you think the consequences of this will be?
I think that the government do genuinely want to improve foster care services but I am also absolutely certain that setting such a low minimum allowance is likely to have a very detrimental effect on foster carers and foster care services. Foster carers will feel very undervalued by the government and more and more will be out of pocket, having to go cap in hand to their fostering service asking for discretionary additional funding. Some will succeed in their requests and others will fail. We know that this process leads to enormous unhappiness and to foster carers being unfairly treated.
I hope that foster carers and those concerned with children in foster care respond to the consultation by urging the government to set minimum allowances at a level that will cover the full cost of care.
What costs do you think are not being considered under the proposed allowances?
The proposed allowances do not take into account any housing costs, any contribution to gas and electricity bills, the cost of transport including the cost of maintaining a family car, which we know can be considerable, and any contribution to other general household expenses like insurance which can be higher for foster carers. Also not included are the cost of furniture and the cost of school clothing. All in all there is a lot that has been missed out.
Why do you think the government has set the allowances so far below the rates your organisation has recommended?
The government has given local authorities an undertaking that they will fund the cost of implementing the national minimum allowance. I suspect that this is why they are setting such a low allowance.
How do you think the proposed allowances will effect the recruitment of foster carers?
No one applies to become a foster carer because of the money. What is important to foster carers is that their allowance covers the cost of care, they receive good training and support and the skills and the time they give are recognised through payments or a fee. There is no doubt, however, that paying low allowances makes it much more difficult to recruit foster carers, which is particularly crucial bearing in mind the current shortage of over 10,000 foster carers across the UK.
Do you think there is a now a danger that councils who pay more than what the government is recommending could cut their allowances?
I think that it is unlikely that in the short term councils will reduce their allowances. However I think it is very likely that over time, councils will move their allowances into line with the Government’s recommended minimum. What this means is that over time more foster carers will receive an allowance that leaves them out of pocket. This will be very bad news for foster carers, foster care services and children who live with foster carers.
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