Unfulfilled pledge sees up to ten-year freeze on support for children in foster care across Scotland

Media release

The failure to follow through on the manifesto commitment made by the Scottish Government to end the postcode lottery in foster care allowances could have an impact on children in foster care and foster carers across Scotland.  

Research published today by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, found that the amount foster carers receive to spend on 0-4-year-olds in their care can vary by as much as £6,346 a year even in neighbouring local authorities, ranging from £77.96 to £200 per week. 

For the first time, The Fostering Network has reviewed allowances paid over a decade and has found that failure to deliver on the well-intended commitment to introduce a national minimum allowance in Scotland is having a damaging effect on the level of allowances across the country.  

Data collected through FOI requests shows that: 

22 out of 32 local authorities have frozen their allowances in the past year. 

Over a quarter of fostering services had the same allowance for seven years. 

Three local authorities have had the same allowances for the past ten years. 

Scotland is the only country in the UK to not have a national minimum allowance. Following promises from the Scottish Government, including a pledge in the 2016 SNP manifesto to introduce a national minimum allowance, many local authorities have frozen their allowances pending an announcement.  

Foster care allowances, which cover the day-to-day costs of looking after a fostered child such as clothing, food and travel, are usually increased on an annual basis to reflect the increases of the cost of living and inflation. The cost of goods and services increased by 30.3 per cent over this period yet only four out of 32 local authorities have increased allowances to keep pace with inflation over the past 10 years.  

Sara Smith, head of operations of The Fostering Network in Scotland, said: ‘Despite over 10 years of commitments to resolve this inequality, foster carers face yet another year of allowances that fall significantly below what is needed to meet the needs of children in foster care. The Promise states that “to provide the care that children require, foster carers must be sufficiently financially maintained”. 

‘There is no doubt that this unfulfilled pledge will have an impact on children and young people in foster care and the families caring for them. 

‘The Scottish Government is the corporate parent of children and young people in Scotland. Most parents would strive to do whatever it takes to ensure their children have what they need to flourish. Now is the time for the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to work together to implement this for children and young people in foster care.’ 

Foster carers are having to make up the shortfall in allowances out of their own savings and income. No foster carer should be out of pocket as a result of caring for children on behalf of the local authority.  

Dot Clelland, a foster carer in Scotland, told us:  

‘If I didn’t have my own business, the children I have looked after would not have had the same opportunities to thrive as their peers, as I have been able to pay for the extras.  

‘Over the last 10 years any uplift in my allowances for the children has been minimal and does not equate to the increase in the cost of living. Everything has gone up by huge amounts, yet nothing has gone up by the same for the children we look after.’ 

A young adult with care experience said:  

‘You are carrying out a duty of care... to support these children and give them the best possible future and to give them the best opportunity to go and provide for themselves and have a successful life. It baffles me, we keep talking about it, but nothing gets done.’ 

Read our latest allowances report here.