In recognition of the life-changing work foster carers do with local children, in its budget last week (February 15) Cumbria County Council agreed to double the fees it pays to carers.
The decision is intended to make becoming a foster carer a financially viable option for more people in Cumbria and brings Cumbria in line with the fees paid by neighbouring local authorities and independent fostering agencies.
The increased fees, when combined with the weekly allowance which foster carers receive for each child in their care, means that newly approved foster carers can expect to receive up to £282 a week for each child they care for, and experienced carers up to £479. (See Notes for Editors for full details)
The increase in fees will be implemented from 2 April 2018.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We know people don’t become foster carers because of the money, but providing the right financial support is important. I hope that this decision demonstrates how much we value our existing carers and attracts new carers to come forward.
“We need more local carers so we can meet the needs of children in Cumbria, in their own communities. While there will always be a need to place children with independent fostering agencies, our aim is to ensure as many of our young people as possible are well-matched with Cumbria’s own foster carers and can benefit from the excellent support networks we provide.
“There is agreement within the council that this is the right thing to do – both for our foster carers and for the children in our care.”
Penrith’s Rob Mason and his wife Christine have been fostering a brother and sister (aged 9 and 13) since they were approved to foster 18 months ago.
Rob said: “Whilst as carers, we are not in it for the money, we do regard ourselves as professionals and this increase is recognition on the part of the council of the hugely important role that carers provide.
“Going forward, if the increased fees are a trigger for those who had previously considered looking after children to take that step then hopefully in the not too distant future we can expect more carers to qualify which can only be a good thing for children in Cumbria.”
While in the short term the increase in fees will be an additional cost to the council of £1.3m a year, it is forecast that by 2022/23 there will be a reduction in costs of around £600,000 a year as a result of reduced reliance on placing children with independent fostering agencies or in residential care which tends to be higher cost. The savings assume an increase of 15 fostering households each year.
The fee increase is part of a package of measures intended to improve our ability to provide the right care for children in the county, which includes:
- Investment in the Homestays scheme for children over 16, which gives them an option to transition from fostering or residential care into a supportive home environment where they can stay safe and learn the skills needed for future independent living.
- Investment in a new targeted fostering scheme specifically to support carers to take on teenagers with complex needs. This will allow care to be provided closer to home and reduce costs associated with expensive residential care.
Overall, all changes taken together are forecast to reduce costs by £1.5m by 2022/23 while also improving the availability of appropriate care options in the county.
Cllr Anne Burns added: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to make these changes. They put us in the best possible position to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in Cumbria and work with our carers to encourage more people to join Cumbria’s biggest family.”
To find out more about fostering with Cumbria County Council visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/fostering or call 0303 333 1216.