Majority of foster carers earn less than living wage

Tristan Donovan
Friday, October 20, 2017

Nine out of 10 foster carers are being paid less than the national living wage, a study has found.

The Fostering Network says there is a need for 9,000 more foster families in the next 12 months. Image: Paul Carter
The Fostering Network says there is a need for 9,000 more foster families in the next 12 months. Image: Paul Carter

A survey of 1,937 foster carers in England by The Fostering Network found that 82 per cent are paid fees for their services, over and above the basic allowance covering the cost of caring for a fostered child, as required by law.

When the fees are considered in isolation, just 12 per cent were found to receive payments equivalent to, or higher than, the national living wage of £7.50 an hour, based on a 40-hour week. More than half - 52 per cent - earned below £4 an hour in fees and 23 per cent made less than £1.70 an hour.

The study also found that local authority carers tended to earn less from fees than those who foster for independent fostering agencies.

The Fostering Network said the fees, which are paid to carers at the discretion of their local authority or independent fostering agency, need to be higher in order to grow and maintain the pool of foster carers.

"It is a matter of social justice that foster carers should be paid," said Kevin Williams, chief executive of the charity.

"But it's also a matter of economics - money spent supporting fostering and foster carers now will save society significantly more money in the future."

"We believe that pay is a key factor in both recruitment and retention. Not only is it an issue for current carers, but - looking to the future - without adequate pay for all, the demographic pool of foster carers will remain limited to those who feel they can afford to foster without fee payments or with minimal fee payments."

One carer told the survey: "I am a single carer, so if I didn't get paid, I would be unable to do it. I consider myself a professional and have worked very hard to achieve my level of skills."

The survey found that 24 per cent of foster carers receive their fee and allowance as a lump sum, but only 61 per cent knew how much of that payment was their pay and how much was their allowance. This is despite the Department for Education's national minimum standards for fostering saying there should be clarity between the allowance and any fee paid to carers.

The online survey also found that only 19 per cent of local authority foster carers and eight per cent of independent fostering agency carers were paid retainers between placements. As one carer told the survey: "No placement, no income."

As with fees for foster carers, retainer payments for them are not required by law.

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