NEW data in a report published by the UK’s leading fostering charity has revealed a postcode lottery in foster care allowances in Wales, with some children receiving nearly £3,500 less per year to support their development.
Despite agreement being reached by all local authorities in Wales to harmonise their allowance rates in line with the national minimum, the new data shows stark disparities still exist.
The Fostering Network is now calling on Welsh Government to make urgent funding available so that all children in foster care are supported to reach their full potential.
The charity’s findings also show 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.
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. 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.
The When I am Ready scheme enables 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 recommended allowances for these arrangements and a lack of funding prevents more young people benefitting from the scheme. Those who do benefit face an even greater variance of support – nearly £6,000 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, Welsh Government must act now and invest in fostering.’