For many years thousands of foster carers have been out of pocket as a result of fostering, with levels of allowances - theoretically designed to cover the basic costs of looking after a fostered child - varying widely across the country. In order to address this postcode lottery, the government has pledged to introduce a national system of allowances, and is due to announce minimum rates in July. However, early indications suggest that, as a result of flawed calculations, the level of allowance the government proposes will be far too low, condemning foster carers to continued financial hardship.
'We urge you to reconsider before fixing allowances at disastrously low levels and condemning foster carers to continued financial hardship. A national system of allowances which fails to guarantee foster carers full reimbursement for their spending on fostering will be a backwards step, and a real betrayal of both carers and the children they care for.'
The letter was signed by representatives of the Fostering Network, NSPCC, Barnardo's, NCH, BAAF, The Who Cares? Trust, Voice, the Together Trust, Shaftesbury, the Catholic Children's Society and NCVCCO.
The allowances proposed by the government at the start of the consultation process range from£100 per week for the youngest children and rise to£113 for 16+. The calculations for determining these exclude spending on rent or mortgages, travel and the costs associated with running a bigger car, and general household bills such as electricity, gas and insurance. The government is due to announce final levels in mid July.
The Fostering Network's recommended minimum allowances for foster care are widely recognised as the benchmark for expenses incurred as the result of fostering, and range from£115 to£198 per week outside London.
There are over 60,000 children and young people in the care system on any given day in England, 42,000 of whom live with 37,000 foster families. A shortage of more than 8,000 foster carers means that fostered children too often face multiple moves, have to live miles from friends and family and are split up from brothers and sisters. This instability and disruption are extremely damaging in terms of children's ability to make and maintain relationships and to fulfil their academic potential.