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News: Renewed calls for national minimum allowance for foster carers

Posted 4 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A new report has revealed a postcode lottery for funding for children, young people and the foster carers who look after them, leading to renewed calls for a national minimum allowance for foster carers to be implemented in Scotland.

The annual Foster Care Allowances report from The Fostering Network has identified discrepancies across age brackets and no increase in foster care allowances in some local authority areas for almost a decade.

Key findings from Scotland Foster Care Allowances Survey Report (click here to access) 2022-23 include:

  • Foster care allowances vary significantly within each age band. In a year, this difference can be as much as £6,954 per child
  • Only 11 local authorities in Scotland increased their foster care allowances in the past year
  • Nearly two-thirds of local authorities in Scotland have frozen their allowances in the past year
  • A third of fostering services have had the same allowance for seven years
  • Three local authorities in Scotland have had the same allowances for ten years or more.

This year’s key findings mirror last year’s, when the charity called for a national minimum allowance to be implemented by April 2022.

Jacqueline Cassidy, director of The Fostering Network Scotland, said:

“The continuing delay in the introduction of a national minimum allowance has had a direct impact on children in care and the foster carers who look after them. We need to help children and young people in care thrive.

The report follows the Fostering Network’s State of the Nation Foster Care 2021 survey (click here to access) which saw foster carers highlight the financial challenges and strain many of them were under due to a lack of sufficient funding and ongoing concerns over the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Cassidy continued:

“Around half of foster carers in Scotland already stated in our State of the Nation Foster Care survey 2021 survey, that the allowances they are given do not cover the costs of looking after a child, meaning they must dip into their own pockets. With inflation rates and the cost of living having significantly increased since then, the situation has only become worse. We are concerned that the cost-of-living crisis will create a crisis for our children and young people.

“Foster carers provide children who can no longer live with their birth families with stability, security and a positive and supportive home environment. Ensuring they are supported must be a priority. The Scottish Government needs to introduce a national minimum allowance now. This is a matter of urgency and cannot be delayed any further.”

Campaign for a national minimum allowance

In Scotland, approximately 4,500 children were living with foster families at the end of July 2021 in 3,540 approved foster care households. This accounts for approximately three-quarters of children in care looked after away from home and family.

Foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance to cover the cost of caring for the child. Costs include food, clothes, toiletries, travel and all other expenses incurred. Allowances vary depending on the age of the child and usually increase on an annual basis in line with the cost of living and inflation. Scotland is currently the only country in the UK not to have a national minimum allowance.

A long-standing campaign by The Fostering Network, along with its members, led to a commitment in the 2016 Scottish National Party manifesto to implement a national minimum allowance for foster carers. A review of care allowances was conducted in 2017-18. A national minimum allowance is yet to be implemented.