Headlines: February 1st, 2006

Social services staff and foster carers are being asked for their views as part of a consultation on proposals to set a national minimum allowance for foster parents for the first time. The plan is part of a series of measures to improve support for carers and is designed to lead to a fairer system of payments across the country.Children’s Minister Maria Eagle said she recognised the progress that local authorities and fostering agencies had made in improving allowances in recent years but she added, “There is still significant variation across the country, with pockets of low payments that cannot be explained simply by regional differences in the cost of living.” She wanted to see fairer payments and more clarity about entitlements for foster carers, regardless of where they lived. Foster carers, she said, fulfilled a unique and invaluable role, providing the security of a family home for vulnerable children with varied and complex needs.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks with the rates for a minimum allowance being set in July. The proposal is based on research into the cost of caring for a child and the additional costs associated with fostering. Based on the methods set out in the consultation, the national minimum allowance for this year would be just under a hundred pounds a week for babies, 107.61 pounds for pre-school children, 103.34 pounds for those of primary age children and 112.89 for secondary school age children.

Robert Tapsfield, the Chief Executive of the Fostering Network, said the question of a minimum allowance was an important issue. “We will be encouraging as many foster carers, fostering services and young people as possible to respond to the consultation, to ensure that carers are not out of pocket as a result of fostering, he said. British Association for Adoption and Fostering Chief Executive Felicity Collier said it had campaigned hard for a national minimum allowance and she, too, urged all those involved to make their views known. “This consultation is a vital opportunity for those affected to have their say on how the allowance should be calculated. We urge foster carers, their families and friends, service providers, social workers, managers and young people in foster care to respond,” she said.