Posted: 25.07.18 at 13:34 by The Editor
Posted on: 25 July 2018
Devon County Council is proposing to spend an extra £1 million on foster carers’ fees in order to target care for vulnerable children more effectively and boost recruitment.
The proposal follows an extensive review of their current fees and allowances, and months of work with foster carers to identify a new fairer system.
Current fees in Devon do not compare well to neighbouring authorities for entry level foster carers. It means that the council struggles to recruit new foster carers to its in-house fostering service.
So it needs to pay higher entry level fees to make recruitment to the service, where there is most demand, an attractive proposition.
Once recruited, the level of support to foster carers is very good and compares favourably. Experienced carers are transferring from independent fostering agencies to the council because the fees it pays at the top end of the scale are considerably higher than fees at the bottom end.
Allowances are standard, set by the Government, while fees are set by local authorities. Foster carers are self-employed, and they receive allowances and fees to cover their costs of looking after fostered children.
There are 270 carers in the Devon service – their ambition is to recruit more to around 300 – and they look after about half of the 700 children in care.
It’s an essential service, and why they consider their foster carers to be a very precious resource.
After months of discussions, with officers working alongside foster carers to look at options, it has reached a draft proposal – a new fee structure – that it is now being tested with foster carers through consultation.
And rather than squeeze the same sized pot of fees differently to raise fees at the low end, it is proposing to increase the overall amount of funding available by an additional £1 million.
The new model starts with a weekly allowance. From there, foster carers receive additional fees to reflect training; for involvement in peer to peer support groups; and ‘enhanced’ and ‘enhanced plus’ fees that reflect the care requirements and needs of the individual child.
Fees for a single child start at nearly £12k per annum, but learning and development would very quickly raise entry level foster carers to fees of around £18k. The proposed fees rise to a little over £26k per child. And most, about two thirds, of foster carers look after two or more children.
If agreed, it would see the council paying higher fees to its foster carers compared to neighbouring authorities.
It estimates that around two thirds of their current foster carers would see their fees rise or remain the same.
Of the rest, those who would see a reduction of more than 5 per cent would have their current fees protected for the length of their placements, or for two years, whichever is soonest. And most of those current placements would naturally come to an end within that time.
Councillor James McInnes, the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for the service said:
“These are dedicated foster carers. They are fundamental to how we look after vulnerable children in our care which is why we value the service they provide so highly.
“That’s why we’re proposing to protect the current fees for those who would otherwise see a large reduction, while increasing fees at entry level in order to attract new foster carers to our in-house service.
“We are not cutting costs through this proposal. We propose to spend more, and for fees to be more tailored to children’s individual needs.
“We’ve done a lot of work with foster carers in reaching this proposal. We all agree that the current model of fees is not fair and it’s putting off new foster carers from joining the service.
“So we want a model that is attractive, competitive, fair and less complex.”
The consultation will be carried out through a series of events for foster carers, and a decision is planned to be made later in the autumn.