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Half of foster carers consider giving up role due to cost of living crisis

Over half of foster carer respondents to a recent survey said they are considering giving up fostering due to the impact of the cost of living crisis.

More than 1,000 foster carers took part in the FosterWiki cost of living crisis survey and 89% said they are having to cut back on money spent on the children, impacting on food, heating, travel and activities, and 2.5% had resorted to food banks. Fifty four per cent of the foster carers questioned have said they are considering giving up fostering as they will be left with no alternative.

“When we launched the FosterWiki survey on the cost of living crisis I was not expecting such a stark and shocking picture to emerge. What struck me the most was a fostering community struggling for its very existence and children, many of who have been taken out of poverty and scarcity being plunged back into it,” said Sarah Anderson, founder of FosterWiki.

In 2021 The Fostering Network conducted their State of the Nation’s Foster Care survey which found that 59% of foster carers said that their fostering allowance and expenses did not meet the full costs of looking after their fostered child.

Recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of foster carers, with the skills, capacity, motivation, and resilience to provide children with what they need to thrive remains challenging and without adequate remuneration in an economy in crisis is not going to be possible, the report by FosterWiki finds.

The survey reveals a sector in crisis:

  • 97% said they are significantly impacted by the cost of living crisis
  • 87% reporting that they have had no financial help at all
  • 86% reported no help or any discounted rates on their council tax
  • 71% saying the travel allowances don’t cover transporting children
  • 23% saying they don’t even get paid fuel allowances
  • Nearly 40% of foster carers have no other income, fostering is their main job and only source of income.

Sarah Anderson said: “We are going to be 25k carers short by 2026, we already don’t have enough now, and looking at these statistics this crisis has the potential to half the existing population of carers. Recruitment is at an all-time low, and the recent recommendations by the Independent review of children's social care for the government to spend millions on a national recruitment campaign will be wasted if nothing is done to address this serious problem.

“Children are already bounced around the system with multiple placement's re-traumatising them and creating long-lasting mental health issues and affecting their future outcomes, which are already dire. There are so few places for them as-is and many end up in mismatched unsuitable settings leading to more moves and more trauma,” she added.

The report recommends:

  • In the short term, the government should pay a meaningful one-off payment to foster carers immediately and again in November and February to ease the pressure until the cost of living crisis is over.
  • This is essential to stabilise placements, to ensure children’s needs are met, their standards maintained and they remain in secure loving families.
  • In the longer-term, remuneration of foster carers needs an overhaul and increase, and work on levelling up across the UK.
  • Government should also ensure that increases to foster carers’ allowances, fees and one-off payments reach them and do not remain with the local authorities or fostering agencies.

The report highlights how in a recent general debate on the recruitment and retention of foster carers in Parliament on 7th March this year, Helen Hayes MP asked the Secretary of State for Education, whether he plans to review the level of national minimum allowances for foster carers.

The then Children’s Minister, Will Quince, answered ‘The department is clear that no one should be ‘out of pocket’ because of their fostering role and expect all foster parents to receive at least the national minimum allowance plus any agreed expenses to cover the full cost of caring for each child placed with them.’

“It is very very clear from this survey that this is not happening and we ask the government what they intend to do about it as it is clear from this survey and report that immediate and urgent action is needed,” the report concludes.

The 2022 impact of cost of living crisis on foster carers survey report

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