Children in foster care in Scotland subject to postcode lottery
Survey findings published today have led the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, to warn that children in foster care in Scotland are subject to a postcode lottery when it comes to how much money is provided for their day-to-day care. It follows more than a decade of regular promises from the Scottish Government to bring this geographical discrepancy to an end.
The charity’s research has found that the amount foster carers receive to spend on 0-4 year olds in their care can vary by as much as £6,000 a year even in neighbouring local authorities. The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government again to introduce and fund a national minimum fostering allowance for Scotland.
All foster carers in Scotland receive a fee to recognise the skills and experience they bring to the role as well as an allowance to spend on the children in their care. This allowance, however, varies significantly from one Scottish local authority to another. Some local authorities offer supplements to the weekly allowance, such as money for baby items, driving lessons, school trips and more, but there is a lack of transparency about these extras and there is no guaranteed minimum amount that foster carers will receive to cover the costs of looking after the children in their care.
Although the Scottish Government has the ambition of Scotland being the best place in the world for children to grow up, and despite the SNP making a manifesto commitment to introduce one, Scotland is currently the only country in the UK that does not have a national minimum fostering allowance.
The Fostering Network’s research also found that:
31 of the 32 Scottish local authorities provide an allowance below the Welsh national minimum allowance for at least one age group.
Two-thirds of local authorities in Scotland have not increased their allowances to be spent on children in foster care in two years.
Allowances currently provided at every age group vary significantly from local authority to local authority. Foster carers looking after children aged:
0 to 4 received a range of £77.96 to £200.00 per week,
5 to 10 received a range of £96.40 to £200.00 per week,
11 to 15 received a range of £120.00 to £240.40 per week and,
16+ received a range of £155.36 to £253.90 per week.
Sara Lurie, director of The Fostering Network in Scotland, said: ‘Our findings should be a catalyst for immediate action. Meeting the needs of children in care must be an absolute priority for the Scottish Government.
‘In April 2016, the SNP manifesto pledged to provide practical and financial support for kinship and foster care families, and to also introduce a new national allowance for both. This still hasn’t happened. There is no doubt that this unfulfilled pledge is having 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 – indeed Nicola Sturgeon referred to herself as “chief Mammy” and among her many important responsibilities, she noted none more important than her responsibility as chief corporate parent.
‘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 to do the same for children and young people in foster care.’