Foster carers in Slough will have their fees halved from Monday, it was decided last night.
The cut applies to the weekly fee paid for the first child placed with them. But the council did back down on original proposals by agreeing that, for existing placements, the fee would fall by only 25% until that placement moved on. For foster carers who have short-term placements, the cut may be delayed by only a few days or weeks.
The council proposed in September that the weekly fee should fall by £400 to £200 but furious foster carers said they would be unable to fulfill their obligations to the children.
Raina Sheridan, deputy chief executive of the Fostering Network, said, although the council had made a compromise on original plans so that fees for children now in foster care would only drop to £300, “in the longer term nothing as changed. This is still bad news.
“Those who foster for Slough were required to give up other jobs to become foster carers and now their household income will be slashed while their outgoings remain the same. They are still required to carry out the same tasks but on far less pay. How many directors of children’s services would continue to do their jobs with a cut in salary like this?
“Slough will say these foster carers are now allowed to get another job outside the home, but it can be difficult to find something that fits in with the demands of fostering.
“If the children needed full-time care last week, they still need it this week. Decisions about the futures of children in care should not be made on financial grounds, which is clearly happening here.”
Councillor Natasa Pantelic, commissioner for education and children at Slough, said: “With allowances of £200 per child and unchanged maintenance payments, Slough remains one of the more generous authorities in the area.
“The reduction in fees was proposed to deal with the unprecedented cuts passed down to us by the government, nonetheless we believe that reducing the fees to a sustainable level, in line with many other authorities is a fairer deal for all of the towns residents.
“To help with the transition, and to ensure continuity for children currently in care we have agreed to reduce allowances to an interim £300 for the remainder of any existing placements for a first child. Following discussion with foster carers we wanted to ensure that no child in a current placement would be disadvantaged because their carers fee was reduced, and carers agreed that £300 represented a fair deal.
“Since the fees were reduced the council has ten foster carers in the pipeline awaiting approval, which has already given us reassurance that the new fees still provide adequate reimbursement for those wishing to care for looked after children.”
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