The Scottish government has unveiled plans for the overhaul of fostering services but stopped short of backing mandatory allowances for carers or restricting the number of concurrent placements.
In the new strategy, Getting it Right for Every Child in Kinship and Foster Care, the Scottish government reiterates its support for local authorities to pay foster carers national minimum allowances of between £119 and £198 a week but says it has “no immediate plans” to use existing legislative powers to enforce this.
Despite the fact that 15 of Scotland’s 32 councils are paying less than national minimum allowances, ministers are hoping market forces – there is a shortage of foster carers in Scotland – will encourage those paying less to raise levels to the minimum in an effort to attract and retain carers.
Bryan Ritchie, director of the Fostering Network Scotland, said allowances paid by councils are increasing. “Authorities are paying higher allowances because they realise they are in competition with voluntary agencies, who all pay the recommended rates.”
But he warned that the strategy’s proposal to peg kinship care allowances to those paid to foster carers could slow progress by putting an extra financial pressure on already stretched budgets.
And Ritchie said the government’s failure to follow the rest of the UK by limiting to three the number of looked-after children placed with foster carers at any one time would put further pressure on existing carers.
A quarter of Scotland’s fostered children live in homes with more than three placed children, while 7% are in households with more than six placed children.
The strategy also outlined plans to establish a specialist information service for kinship carers; national protocols for dealing with complaints and allegations against carers; and better training and support for carers.