More thought needed on national allowance for foster carers

Fostering organisations and local authorities are warning that more research needs to be carried out before the government implements a national minimum fostering allowance scheme.

The government is proposing to introduce a “fairer and more consistent” method of paying foster carers from July 2006. But leading charities including Baaf Adoption and Fostering and the Fostering Network warn that the proposed allowance levels are too low and will not aid recruitment and retention of foster carers.

In response to a Department for Education and Skills consultation on the minimum allowance which closes today, charities are calling for a study into the full costs of caring for a fostered child.

Fostering Network chief executive Robert Tapsfield said: “A guaranteed minimum fostering allowance should be great news, as the current ad hoc system is not working and leaves many carers out of pocket.

“But disappointingly the allowances being proposed today are insufficient to cover the costs of looking after a fostered child, and do not even consider any spending by foster carers on housing, fuel or travel.”

The Local Government Association is similarly concerned that crucial costs incurred by foster carers have been omitted.

Despite reassurances from the DfES that the proposals would “not place any pressure on council tax”, the LGA would like to see research carried out into the impact of any national minimum allowance on rates charged by the independent fostering sector, and the additional financial burden this would place on councils.

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