Proposed changes to the Fostering Payments Policy

Closes 19 Nov 2018

Opened 5 Oct 2018

Results expected 14 Dec 2018

Overview

Southwark Council is very grateful to our foster carers for the amazing contribution that they make to the children and young people of our borough. This is why, despite huge pressures on council budgets following years of funding cuts, we strive to offer a competitive package to compensate our foster carers for the work they do. However, those financial pressures do mean that we regularly need to review our offer to ensure we are spending our limited resources wisely, and according to national guidelines.

Having reviewed the allowances and fees we pay, we believe some adjustments are required to bring them in line with government guidance. This consultation sets out our proposals to bring the fostering allowance component in line with the Department for Education (DfE) fostering allowance which would mean some carers receiving a reduced allowance, but to also change the reward fee component to ensure that foster carers do not experience an overall reduction in the weekly amount they receive. We would also introduce a higher fee for a new category of specialist foster carer, and propose changes to some of the additional allowances paid to foster carers.

While foster carers will see very little change to their remuneration as a result of these proposed changes, Special Guardianship, Child Arrangement Order, Residence Order and adoptive carers who are approved after 1st  January 2019 would see more impact, and we are keen to hear from all our carers so that we can take everyone's views into account when we take a final decision. Please read carefully the sections below and do fill in the survey and let us know what you think of the proposals.

Fostering allowance

The fostering allowance is designed to cover the cost of caring for a child. This includes food, clothes, toiletries, travel and all other expenses incurred in looking after a child. Southwark Council currently bases its fostering allowance component on the rates published by the Fostering Network, but these are no longer being published.

We are proposing that from the 1st January 2019 Southwark Fostering Payments for Carers Policy should adopt the Department for Education (DfE) fostering allowances. The current government recommended rates can be found at the following link. https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers/help-with-the-cost-of-fostering   

The government recommended rates have been adopted by several local authorities across the UK, including the following in London: Richmond, Kingston, Greenwich, Lewisham, Bromley, Islington and Barnet.

Reward fee component

In addition to an allowance, foster carers are paid a reward fee component which is to recognise their experience, training and skills. We know money is not the biggest motivating factor for foster carers, but to be able to attract and retain foster carers we need to pay a comparable amount to both neighbouring local authorities and also to Independent Fostering Agencies.

We are proposing to increase the reward fee component to ensure that foster carers do not experience an overall reduction in the weekly amount they receive. The actual weekly amount of fostering fees has been calculated so that all foster carers at Levels 1, 2 and 3 would have an overall increase of more than 1%. (Please see details in the attached consultation document).

We are also proposing that the reward fee would have a percentage change annually in line with the Southwark Council employee pay change.

Specialist foster carers

It is also proposed to introduce a higher fee level for a new category of specialist foster carer who has proven specialist therapeutic skills and undertaken enhanced training.

Special Guardians and CAO and RO and adoptive carers

The fostering allowance is the key amount used by Southwark to calculate Special Guardianship (SGO) and Child Arrangement Order (CAO) (formerly Residence Order (RO)) and adoption allowances.

We are proposing that SGO, CAO and RO and adoption allowances continue to be means tested and that SGO, CAO, RO and adoptive carers approved after 1st January  will receive the reduced level of allowance. This would be based on the fostering allowances set out in the Dof E guidance which recommends different payments based on the age of the fostered child. We are not proposing that existing SGO, CAO, RO and adoptive carers experience reductions in the allowances they receive. Instead they will continue to receive the current amount, but when the child they are caring for changes to a different age band in line with the rates, they will either retain their current amount, or it will increase in line with the new age band rate, whichever is the higher.

Family and Friends Foster Carers

Family and Friends Foster Carers who have been already been approved as long term foster carers by the Adoption and Fostering Panel will be eligible for the reward fee component even if they have not completed the required training, but the Council will assist and encourage those carers to undertake the training within 18 months from 1st  January 2019. Further details are contained in the Fostering Payments to Carers Policy.

Family and Friends Foster Carers who wish to consider becoming Special Guardians or adopters would be impacted by the proposed reduction in rates. In order to alleviate the effects of this change and promote children being looked after in their family and friends network, Southwark Council would, if the SGO or adoption is supported by the local authority, agree to pay the fostering allowance and fee component the carer already receives for two years after the order is made.

Other changes

We have also reviewed our additional allowances to foster carers and propose some changes.

The initial technology allowance would reduce from £600 to £500 in light of the reduction in the cost of computers, which can be updated at a frequency of not less than every three years to a value of £400.

Why We Are Consulting

We recognise that different groups of carers are affected differently by what we are proposing and have tried to set out in the consultation document what these differences are and the reasons for these.

We are undertaking and will publish an equalities impact assessment about this proposed change which will take into consideration the views expressed during this 6 week consultation period

Give Us Your Views

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  • Carers

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  • Social Care