The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity. Its aim is to help and support foster carers caring for fostered children. A survey carried out by the charity in February 2016 offers an insight into the impact of cuts to Local Authority budgets. The charity is keen that foster carers have their voices heard.
Reduced access to social workers
Foster carers expressed deep concern that the cuts result in reduced access to their fostered child’s allocated social worker and adversely affect the support that they are able to provide. As many as two thirds (69%) of foster carers expressed this view. The survey suggests that these cuts cause unmanageable caseloads and a high turnover of social workers which results in them being able to spend less time with the child that they are supervising and inconsistency in the support that they offer.
Reduced access to wider services
Beyond the immediate social work support, foster carers commented on the lack of respite care and the difficulties faced when attempting to access mental health services for children. Two thirds (67%) of foster carers emphasised these two areas as being of particular concern. Many children entering the care system have complex needs which means that access to specialist support services is paramount.
Reduced access to foster carer allowances and fees
Foster carers reported that allowances have been suspended for a number of years. This has resulted in many foster carers now having to pay for things that had previously been covered by an additional allowance. This has put severe financial pressure on foster carers when it comes to expenses such as mileage or replacing equipment and breakages. The survey indicates that foster carers now pay for these items themselves in order to avoid fostered children going without. Two thirds of foster carers (70%) felt that their allowances had been negatively affected by funding cuts and the same can be said for the fees that foster carers receive for fostering.
The number of children in the UK entering the care system is increasing and over three quarters of these children are subsequently placed with foster carers. The charity asserts that it is important that Local Authorities continue to be adequately funded to ensure that they are able to help facilitate stable and loving homes for fostered children. Foster carers help to restore faith in family life for many children and must be encouraged to continue with the valuable work that they do.
You can read the full report of The Fostering Network, published April 2016 here: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/sites/www.fostering.net/files/content/cuts_report.pdf
By Ellie Gee