Three-quarters of foster carers are paid less than the minimum wage and two in five receive no payment at all, according to new figures from the Fostering Network.
Yet, despite this, 88 per cent of foster carers surveyed did not have a full-time job outside the home and had to meet living costs with the fostering fee.
Many fostered children need foster carers who can stay at home during the day. Some fostering services stipulate that the main carer cannot have a second job.
The report calls for pay to be increased substantially to avoid financial hardship.
Fostering Network chief executive Robert Tapsfield said: “Foster carers are increasingly required to work full-time and take on complex duties and responsibilities but often they are treated as volunteers when it comes to pay.”
New minimum fostering allowances of at least £100 a week come into force in April but are meant to cover the costs incurred in fostering rather than be a wage.
More information: Concerns over rates proposed for new national fostering allowance