Legal threat to councils that fail to pay fostering rate to kinship carers

    Fostering and adoption groups have warned councils to remove
    discriminatory policies against kinship carers or face legal
    action.

    Solicitors firm Ridley and Hall has already targeted Kirklees,
    Leeds, Bradford, Bolton, Hampshire, Surrey and Peterborough
    councils after a series of calls from kinship carers.

    The move follows the landmark ruling in September 2001 that
    Manchester Council had to pay all foster carers according to the
    needs of the child for whom they were caring. Mr Justice Munby said
    discriminating against kinship carers contravened the European
    Convention on Human Rights.

    After several legal challenges to its policy, Kirklees agreed in
    April to pay kinship carers a higher fostering allowance, backdated
    to the 2001 judgement. They also agreed to pay a sum equivalent to
    the long-term fee to all carers who care for a child aged eight or
    above.

    The Fostering Network welcomed the news, saying no carer should be
    out of pocket as a result of looking after children. “We encourage
    local authorities to remove discriminatory policies against family
    and friend carers,” a spokesperson said. “Where they do not, they
    open themselves up to judicial review.”

    Baaf Adoption and Fostering chief executive Felicity Collier said
    the lack of proper financial support for kinship carers was an
    important reason why only 17 per cent of children in care were
    fostered by relatives, compared with 26 per cent in the rest of
    Europe and the US.

    “We all know that, on balance, children do better living with
    people they know if they can provide safe care,” Collier said.
    “Government policy does not make sense.”

    Ridley and Hall senior partner Nigel Priestley estimated that
    Kirklees should be paying a minimum £800,000 to some 40
    carers. But he added that the council’s revised policy “did not go
    far enough”.

    He said: “In the Manchester case, compensation was paid for the
    months and years leading up to the date of the judgement. Kirklees
    appears to be trying to short-change carers to accept fewer
    backpayments than they are entitled to in law.”

    A council spokesperson said the money would be raised through
    council tax rises and “was not coming from other departments”.

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