The Fostering Network has campaigned for foster care allowances over the course of its more than 40-year history. The entitlement to allowances and recommended national minimum allowances now exists across the whole of the UK. It is important that allowance levels cover the entire costs of caring for a child and support them to thrive.
What are allowances?
All foster carers receive a weekly fostering allowance from their fostering service when they have a child living with them, which is designed to cover the cost of caring for a child in foster care. This includes food, clothes, toiletries, travel and all other expenses incurred and varies depending on the age of the child.
Fee payments may be made on top of allowances to recognise a foster carer's time, skills and experience. While all foster carers receive an allowance, there is no requirement for fee payments to be made. The Fostering Network, however, believes that foster carers should be paid a fee for the vital role they do. For more information, see our policy on pay for foster carers.
Fees and allowances should be separate and clearly identified so that foster carers know which portion of the fostering income should be spent on caring for the child in their care, and which is for the role that they do. However, some fostering services will make a lump sum ‘financial package’ which does not make the split clear.
National minimum allowances (NMA)
Each government of the UK sets its national minimum or recommended allowance for foster carers according to the age and needs of a child. As of August 2023 after the Scottish Government introduced a recommended national minimum allowance, there are now national minimum allowances across the whole of the UK. The Fostering Network has campaigned for this for decades.
In England, following the Independent Review of Children's Social Care, the Government announced a 12.43% uplift to the national minimum allowance in February 2023, the Welsh Government 5.5% and the Northern Ireland Government a 3% uplift in September 2023.
The weekly NMA rates for each county are below:
|South East England
|Rest of England
As the table shows, there is a great variation in the NMAs across the UK. The current national minimum allowances (NMAs) set by governments across the UK are not enough. The rates are based on out-of-date research, have not been keeping pace with inflation and do not cover the full costs of caring for a child. Foster families are currently receiving much less than they need to support the children and young people in their care to achieve their best possible outcomes.
Our allowances reports
Paying in line with the government's NMA is not statutory, nor is it monitored nationally. This results in inequality for children due to the variation in financial support available. Foster carers have to dip into their own pockets to cover the costs of caring. This has been an issue for foster carers for many years, well before the current cost-of-living crisis.
Insufficient allowances are putting unnecessary pressure on fostering households. As the number of children entering care continues to rise, it is essential that we support foster carers and ensure there are the right number with the range of skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the children who need them most.
Every year The Fostering Network checks the allowances paid by all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland to ensure they meet national minimum levels, and campaigns for them to be brought up to these levels where they are falling short.
Our latest report shows:
- Allowances in England, Wales and Scotland vary considerably – with some children receiving up to £198.57 per week less than others which equates to £10,325.64 per year.
- Northern Ireland is the only nation where all trust foster carers (which includes all kinship carers) receive the same rate of allowances to cover the cost of caring for a child in foster care.
- The additional allowances foster carers can claim on top of their weekly amount 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.
- The absence of a NMA for post-18 arrangements has resulted in even greater variance. In England, for example, some young people receive up to £12,000 less financial support per year to remain living within a foster family.
- In addition, due to inconsistent local policies, some young people in post-18 arrangements are expected to contribute up to £140 per week while others do not have to contribute at all.
Our #CostofFostering campaign is calling for a fairer funding framework that covers the full costs of caring for a child in foster care and supports them to thrive.
Our calculations supported by Pro Bono Economics, are based on the Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom and Nina Oldfield's ‘The Adequacy of Foster Care Allowances’ include the additional costs of caring for a child in foster care.
The Fostering Network’s new 2023/4 recommended rates are:
- £227 per week to raise a child in foster care aged 0-4 years
- £275 per week to raise a child in foster care aged 5-10 years
- £349 per week to raise a child in foster care aged over 11 years.
The Fostering Network is calling on governments across the UK to:
- Significantly invest in the rates of fostering allowances to ensure they cover the full costs of caring for a child in foster care so they can thrive.
Increase the upper age limit of the NMA to ensure that young people, while still living in a fostering household in post-18 arrangements, can access stability and support into adulthood.
Regularly review their NMAs in line with annual inflation and other relevant factors.
Expect all fostering services to adhere to nationally agreed allowances.
Work with regulatory bodies for fostering in each nation of the UK to introduce systems to monitor compliance with the NMA, in line with current regulatory requirements, to ensure consistency for children, foster carers and potential future foster carers.
Vist our #CostofFostering page to get involved.