New data published in a report by the UK’s leading fostering charity has revealed a postcode lottery across the UK in foster care allowances, with some children receiving over £10,000 less per year.
The Fostering Network is now calling on governments to make urgent funding available so that children in foster care are supported to reach their full potential.
Foster care allowances are provided by government to cover the cost of caring for our most vulnerable children. Despite each government of the UK setting national minimums, the charity’s findings show that some children receive over £10,000 less per year in allowances to support their development, and that additional amounts foster carers can claim are inconsistent and complicated.
Some foster carers can claim over £950 a year to take a young person on holiday, while others have no holiday allowance.
This results in considerable differences to children’s experiences and outcomes and leads to inequality.
For many years foster carers have said the allowance is insufficient and have to dip into their own pockets to cover the costs neglected by the state.
Longstanding under-funding has been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, pushing some foster carers to the point of giving up and deterring people from applying to become foster carers.
As the number of children entering care continues to rise, it is essential that there are the right number of foster carers with the range of skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the children who need them most – this must be a priority for all governments across the UK.
There are schemes in place in the UK that enable young people to remain living with their former foster carers, to benefit from a family environment, until they are 21 (or older in certain circumstances).
There are no national minimums for these arrangements and a lack of funding prevents more young people benefitting from the schemes. Those who do benefit face an even greater variance of support – up to £12,000 per year.
This is why the charity is calling for a more consistent and fair funding framework in line with inflation that fully covers the cost of caring for a child or young person so they can thrive, not just survive.
A system that properly financially supports children and young people for as long as they need to benefit from a foster family will see long-term savings to the public purse.
Chief executive of The Fostering Network, Sarah Thomas, says: ‘Foster carers are dedicated to transforming children’s lives. They help our young people recover from trauma and achieve the best they can – but they must receive the right financial support to do this.
‘Increasing the foster care allowance is vital to enable children to thrive, but also needed to counter the retention and recruitment crisis the fostering sector was already battling with prior to the cost-of-living crisis.
‘Many children need foster carers and while this need is growing, the pool of foster carers is shrinking. To show they really want the best of our children and young people, governments of the UK must act now and significantly invest in fostering.’