Almost one in nine English councils are not meeting the government’s national minimum allowances for foster care, the Fostering Network said today.
In its annual allowances survey, the charity warned that shortages of carers would persist, with 17 of the 150 authorities not meeting the government’s minimum rates, which it said where themselves too low.
It said more than half of authorities (52%) did not meet the Fostering Network’s recommended rates. These are 20-30% higher because they also cover the housing and transport costs incurred by carers, and the network said that authorities needed to find an extra £27m a year to meet them.
The government’s minimum rates were brought in under the Children Act 2004 and were supposed to apply from April 2007. The government has promised to monitor allowances through the inspection process and said it would consider regulation should councils not comply with its minimum rates.
Fostering Network chief executive Robert Tapsfield said: “Foster carers are still having to dip into their own pockets to subsidise the state. Is it surprising that there is a foster carer shortage?”
He urged the government to increase minimum rates to the network’s recommended levels and enforce this through regulation.
A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was “too early to make a decision as to whether it would be appropriate to legislate” to enforce the government’s minimum rates.
A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “The government recognised the need for initial flexibility [in meeting the minimum rates] due to the wide variance across the country in the allowances paid.”
It confirmed that several local authorities still had to make “significant changes” to their local fostering allowances and others will need “to find additional resources to fund the changes”.
Minimum fostering rates outside London and south east
Government rates (Fostering Network proposed rate)
● Babies: £100 (£119)
● Pre-primary school age children: £102 (£119)
● Primary school age: £113 (£135)
● Secondary: £129 (£163)
● Sixth-form: £151 (£198)