Agenda item

Fostering Allowances

(To receive a report from John Harris, Children's Service Manager – Regulated (North and Fostering), which invites the Committee to consider and comment on a report concerning Fostering Allowances, which is due to be considered by the Executive Councillor for Adult Care, Health and Children's Services on 17 May 2019)


The Committee received a report which invited members to consider a report on Fostering Allowances which was due to be considered by the Executive Councillor for Adult Care, Health and Children's Services on 17 May 2019.  Members were informed that it was proposed to increase the Foster Care rates by 2% for 2019/20 and in order to recognise and encourage the retention of foster carers, it was further proposed to introduce an annual retention payment for all foster carers who completed the relevant training and had a successful annual review.  This approach would be open to all foster carers who were able to demonstrate acquired skills and experience during the year and would be endorsed at the annual review.  It was specifically focussed on mainstream foster carers as a means of recruitment and retention.


It was reported that some of the long standing foster carers were now getting older or suffering from ill health and were no longer able to carry on fostering.  Therefore, there was a need to be able to sustain those foster carers that the authority currently had and ensure that they were still around in 5 years or more.


Members were provided with the opportunity to ask questions to the officers present in relation to the information contained within the report and some of the points raised during discussion included the following:

·         It was noted that this would be a retention payment, but that there was also a team of people around the foster carer to support them including a supervising social worker, placement support workers as well as being able to draw on services through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

·         As well as trying to recruit more foster carers, the authority was also trying to ensure it retained them as well. 

·         It was queried whether there was a target for how many foster carers the authority wanted to recruit.  It was noted that this was an issue of sufficiency and the number of Looked After Children coming to the authority.  However, it was planned to build in some degree of flexibility.

·         It was noted that there was one organisation which paid foster carers £450 per week, and it was queried how commercial organisations were able to offer this amount of money.  Members were advised that this would be reflected in the charges paid by the relevant local authority, and children from other areas of the country could be placed in Lincolnshire.  The county council wanted their foster carers to foster children from Lincolnshire.  People should not be able to profit from vulnerable children, but it was important that Lincolnshire County Council's remained attractive.

·         It was noted that the County Council was focused on having its own foster carers, but some other councils did not make as much effort to recruit and were happy to pay for independent providers.

·         Members were advised that some people made a choice to be a foster carer rather than work, and in some cases their service had exceeded 25 years.

·         It was queried whether it was harder to recruit foster carers as the county had such high employment.  Officers believed that this was affected by employment levels, but there was no official data to confirm this.

·         It was queried how a decision to recommend Option 2 (introduction of retention payments) had been made and whether there was any benchmarking information.  Members were advised that payment for skills was a model that was used by a lot of authorities, but it could be difficult to administer as there would be different levels of foster carers and delivery in Lincolnshire would be too complex.  It was felt that it would take away the choice element that Lincolnshire foster carers had.

·         There was a move towards encouraging carers to undertake more training in order to professionalise fostering.  It was noted that most people became foster carers as they were motivated to give back to the community and it was rarely about money.  A number of foster carers would leave after 3 – 4 years, and the aim was to see more foster carers stay with the council for 10 – 15 years.

·         It was queried whether Lincolnshire was the first local authority to offer a retention payment, and officers reported that they believed this was an innovative approach as many authorities used the tiered system.  There was currently no benchmarking information that would suggest that this would work, but was a judgement made following discussions with existing foster carers.  However, members were reminded that Lincolnshire was still benchmarked as one of the highest performing authorities for value for money in relation to fostering.  It was highlighted that the report did not include information about the discussions which had taken place with current foster carers and it was suggested that it would have been beneficial to see what they actually thought about the proposal. 

·         The Executive Councillor for Adult Care, Health and Children's Services advised that she was the Chair of the Lead Members for Children's Services group for East Midlands Councils, and confirmed that Lincolnshire was the most pro-active in terms of foster carers. It was commented that Leicestershire County Council had to send a lot of their looked after children out of county for fostering.  It was noted that a lot of other authorities came to Lincolnshire to see what the authority was doing.

·         There was a comment that the proposal was good in principle, but some more evidence on benchmarking might have been included in the report.

·         It was queried whether, when accepting children from other authorities, whether they were charged the same price as if they were going to a private provider.  Members were advised that Lincolnshire's foster carers were there to take children that LCC needed to place.  Occasionally, if a child needed to be placed from out of county, that authority would be charged a reasonable rate.

·         It was confirmed that priority would be given to placing Lincolnshire children with foster carers in the county.

·         It was not possible for foster carers to be registered with both a private fostering agency and the county council.  There were very strict protocols in place if anyone wanted to leave one fostering body to move to another.

·         In terms of governance arrangements for private providers, it was queried what safeguards were in place for the council.  Members were advised that the independent sector was subject to Ofsted inspection and registration.  There would be a contract in place with the provider which would be subject to monitoring and stringent regulation.

·         It was commented that it was an interesting and innovative idea, and if it was deemed to be viable, then there was no issue.  Lincolnshire was seen as an innovative council, and so needed to look at things which were slightly different.

·         It was suggested that there was a need to be careful about paying people and then them not being available.  The primary motivator for people undertaking this role should not be money, but the desire to help young people.

·         It was queried whether the authority had any commitment to work place pensions in relation to foster carers, and members were advised that it did not, however, there were tax breaks available to foster carers.  It was noted that this was the case as they were not employed, and the majority of foster carers would not want a contract of employment.

·         It was noted that this payment was an incentive, but what was most important was the value added by the support and training which was also provided.  It was commented that it was thought that this was the right model.  Whilst foster carers might receive a higher allowance working for the independent sector, many foster carers were motivated by the difference they made to the lives of vulnerable children and young people.




1.    That the Committee support the recommendations to the Executive Councillor for Adult Care, Health and Children's Services as set out in the report.

2.    That information on the foster allowance schemes operated in the East Midlands Councils be circulated to the Committee.

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