Payments

Payments to Brighton and Hove foster carers and financial issues

Introduction

The foster care service has changed considerably throughout the UK in recent years, with in particular a shift from a ‘volunteer’ foster carer workforce to an increasingly professionalised service to children and families with foster carers playing a key role in the team around a child in care. There are now very clear expectations of carers in relation to training and skills and the take up of support services. These are detailed in the National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011, against which all fostering agencies are regularly inspected by Ofsted.

Foster carers are expected not only to care for the child but also to work with birth families, collaborate with a range of different agencies and professionals and to implement care plans and sometimes give evidence in care proceedings. Foster carers are a pivotal part of the team to meet the needs of children in their care.

The Fostering Network estimate that to meet the demand for placements and to ensure a choice of placements that can best meet children’s needs at least 10,000 more foster carers are needed across the UK. The recruitment, assessment and training process is very expensive and Brighton & Hove works very hard to retain their skilled and experienced foster carers. We also recognise that caring for looked after children who may have experienced traumatic and abusive care can be very challenging. We need to ensure that all our carers and particularly newly recruited carers receive a high level of support and training.

The demands made of carers are such that in many cases fostering should be undertaken as a fulltime occupation as it is essential for children to have the opportunity to develop trusting relationships with their carers who have the time and energy to devote to their care. Also foster carers need to be able to have the time available to attend key meetings, support groups and training related to their fostering work.

The current structure of foster care payments recognises the need to pay an allowance that meets the full cost of caring for the child.  The other component to the scheme is a fee element which relates to the need to recruit and retain an experienced pool of foster carers to meet the needs of our children in care. The payment structure therefore reflects the increasing professionalisation of foster care and our need to have a robust recruitment strategy within a very competitive environment.

Foster carers should read the specific section within the Brighton & Hove foster carers’ handbook on tax and national insurance and foster carers are treated as self employed for tax purposes.

 

Principles for the foster care payment scheme

The following principles underpin the payment scheme:

  • It is simple, fair and easy to understand
  • It enables Brighton & Hove to be competitive with local independent fostering agencies and other local authorities
  • It recognises the complex task of fostering other people’s children
  • The care payment will meet the Department for Education’s national minimum  fostering allowance

Consultation with local carers indicated very strong support for a basic allowance that essentially covers all the day to day costs of caring for a child rather than carers having to go ‘cap in hand’ to social workers for reimbursement of certain costs. This makes us compatible with all-inclusive payments schemes run by independent agencies. There is now an expectation that carers will budget and manage their money as they do for their own families. The fostering allowance rate is subject to annual review.

 

Foster carer allowances

The basic care payment is paid to all foster carers. This care payment is expected to cover the full costs of caring for the child or young person. This includes the cost of food and clothing, Christmas and birthday presents, holidays (with the exception of expensive school trips), playgroup and regular costs related to school or leisure activities. It also includes transport costs although there is the discretion to pay an additional payment for exceptional transport costs relating to contact. This payment reflects the fact that high quality foster care is crucial in order to achieve better outcomes for children and young people and increased placement stability. The care payment will meet the Department for Education’s national minimum fostering allowance. There are details about what is included in the care payment further on in this section.

Fee payments

The Brighton & Hove payment scheme also includes a fee payment. The level of fee payment relates to the carers experience and amount of training undertaken, and is paid in recognition of the fact that Brighton & Hove needs to be able to have a pool of experienced and well trained carers able to meet the needs of our children in care. Fostering should increasingly be seen as a career choice and most foster carers provide a range of different placements and undertake a range of different fostering tasks throughout their fostering career. Foster carers often also provide respite fostering to other Brighton & Hove approved carers and are required to provide a high level of flexibility to cope with the demands of fostering different children. Experienced carers can be asked to provide support and mentoring to less experienced carers. Brighton & Hove are committed to expanding their in-house fostering service whilst continuing to work in partnership with the independent fostering sector. To be able to operate competitively in this area Brighton & Hove needs to be able to pay a fee level in recognition of the need to recruit and retain experienced carers able to commit to the varied challenges of the fostering task. The fee payment is a reflection of the real need within Brighton & Hove to retain skilled and experienced carers and reward carers for their loyalty and commitment.

The level of fee payment reflects the length of experience and also the expectations and requirements of approved foster carers that have embarked on fostering as career choice.

Prospective foster carers, apart from those that are coming forward to be assessed in relation to specific children, are required to undertake a comprehensive preparation training and assessment process to equip them for the fostering task in line with the requirements under Standard 13 of the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011. The home study assessment is a continuation of the educative process and prospective foster carers are required to evidence their skills, knowledge and abilities for the fostering task. A fee will be paid on approval to carers who have successfully undertaken the full recruitment, preparation and assessment process.

Foster carers as part of their assessment and approval process will have a personal and professional development plan which details the training requirements and expectations of them to access the appropriate training and other fostering resources.

The resulting PPDP becomes the framework for supervising foster carers and fits with the requirement that carers complete the Children’s Workforce Development Council Training, Support and Development standards within the first 12 months of their approval as foster carers.

The criteria for the payment of a fee for Brighton & Hove carers therefore relates to the requirement of prospective foster carers to attend information and preparation training prior to their application being accepted and then to successfully complete the assessment process through to approval. A decision is made about accepting the application and proceeding to the home study assessment at a meeting with prospective applicants after their attendance at the Skills to Foster training. The home study assessment is an evidence-based risk assessment which reflects the essential competencies, skills and knowledge required to foster a range of different children or young people from the care system. The new carer fee element is therefore paid to approved carers that have been through this process. Carers in their first year of fostering are required to complete the Training, Support and Development Standards alongside the demands of their fostering role.

Foster carers are subject to regular annual review and the person and professional development plan will be updated each review to reflect the training and range of experiences that the carers have undertaken and the expectations of them in the forthcoming year. The fee payments are increased again at 2 years post approval subject to the carer having completed the required mandatory training, and then again at 5 years post approval in line with the expectations to develop skills through attendance at training, support groups and to reflect experience gained in their fostering career.

The Fostering Team Manager will have the discretion to consider a fee payment to certain carers who have not followed the traditional route into fostering but have been approved for specific children. A decision to pay such a fee would relate to the carers experience and attendance at training events including successful completion of the Training, Support and Development standards for foster carers.

Enhancements to the care payment

There are some exceptional circumstances that may warrant an enhancement to the basic care payment. This may be the case in certain situations where carers do not meet the criteria for a fee payment but could be considered for an enhancement which reflects the circumstances of the particular child or children that require a foster placement and those of the carer. These payments would only be agreed by the Fostering Team Manager.

An enhanced payment may also be considered in certain circumstances to enable a child to be placed with particular carers who have been assessed to meet their needs and will require additional financial support to enable them to undertake that task. Such circumstances may relate for example to the need for the carer to move to a larger property to enable them to foster specific children on a permanent basis and an enhancement could be paid to contribute to for example the additional housing costs. An enhanced payment may also be considered in certain circumstances where a carer has been assessed for a particular child but needs to reduce their working hours or take an extended break from work to be able to focus on the needs of the child. Payments of enhancements will usually be clearly time limited and the carers will be kept fully informed of the reason for the enhancement, the level of payment and how it will be kept under review.

An enhanced payment of £79 per week per placement will be paid to all intensive fostering scheme carers given the additional expectations that are made of them as part of this particular scheme. There may also be certain situations where the demands placed on a foster carer to look after a specific child are well beyond the normal expectations of carers and the Fostering Team Manager would have the discretion to pay a similar enhanced payment for an agreed period.

 

Expenditure for which foster carers are expected to budget for from their basic care allowance:

Birthday and Christmas presents

The weekly allowance covers the cost of birthday and Christmas presents for a child or children placed with you.

Fostered child(ren)’s holidays

Carers are expected to budget for the cost of holidays out of the weekly basic allowance. Carers are also expected to budget for school trips but can ask for assistance if a school trip costs more than £200.

Playgroup/nursery fees

Normally we would expect you to be financially responsible for any fees incurred for a place at playgroup or nursery that you had arranged for a child placed with you.

Childminding costs

Foster carers are expected to pay for childminding costs from their basic allowance. Exceptions to this are for carers who need childminding to attend training or for reasons of placement stability to support the carer and the placement. Where this is needed foster carers will discuss with their supervising social worker and will be approved by the Fostering Team Manager

School costs

The weekly payment covers the cost of a school dinner or packed lunch, school fund contributions, replacement of uniforms, school photographs, day trips, school sports costs and transport to school (unless child is being transported a long distance to school).

Leisure activities

Carers will need to budget for membership of clubs, such as Woodcraft Folk, Brownies, Guides, Scouts and youth clubs and the basic equipment or uniform required. Carers should also plan for expenditure on other activities such as music, dance, swimming, and horse riding or cycling. However, if it looks as if there may be a major expenditure, such as buying a musical instrument and lessons, this should be discussed with the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker. Children in care in Brighton & Hove schools are supported through the provision of free music lessons and loan of musical instruments.

Transport

As part of normal family life, carers are expected to make the usual transport arrangements for children to and from school, medical treatment, therapy sessions, leisure activities, seeing friends, contact and so on.

Clothing

If children arrive at the foster home with insufficient clothing an initial clothing allowance will normally be paid. Carers must ensure that children’s clothing is well kept, appropriate for the weather and activity and replaced as required.

The weekly payment includes an amount for clothing needs. Carers should keep accounts for all expenditure on clothing for the child.

Pocket money

Please see separate section on pocket money and expectations of carers in terms of organising savings accounts for children in their care.

Additional one off payments

Consideration will also be given to paying additional one-off  payments in relation to certain limited circumstances.

Your supervising social worker and child’s social worker will advise you when such payments can be considered and appropriate senior manager approval would need to be obtained. Additional financial support for foster carers that could be considered is as follows:

  • Initial setting up costs: up to £250 can be paid at the outset of a placement if basic clothing (which could include school uniform) and equipment are required;
  • School/educational trips: where these are above £200 financial assistance can be considered;
  • Costs related to attendance at training events : discretionary additional payments to support with childcare costs can be made at the request of the supervising social worker to support foster carers with attendance at certain training events
  • Transport costs: Children in foster care often have very high transport needs. The role foster carers play in transporting of children is an important one and it is expected that carers, wherever possible, will undertake the transporting of children. Where this is impractical, for example, where carers have demands from their own children or multiple placements or the child’s school is a long distance away, the carer must discuss with the child’s social worker and supervising social worker what alternative arrangements can be made. However it is not in children’s best interests to be spending long periods of time in taxis and as far as possible this should be avoided. Foster carers need to work with social workers to reduce the amount of time children spend in taxis and it is expected that carers will make a significant contribution to any foster child’s transport requirements and wherever possible will undertake a child’s transporting themselves.  Where carers are transporting children significant distances (above 60 miles a week) on a regular basis they can claim additional petrol costs (or public transport costs). This is in addition to the weekly allowance. Carers are asked to calculate the cost of the additional petrol used (above 60 miles). This is agreed with your supervising social worker and is then authorised by the Fostering Team Manager. The amount is added onto the carer’s weekly allowance and reviewed regularly.

 

 

Weekly allowances for foster carers for financial year 06 April 2017 to 05 April 2018

Age of child

Care Payment Amount

0-4

£150.00pw

5-11

£188.00pw

12-18

£226.00pw

Fees

Type of carer

Amount

New Carer

£155.00pw

Carer with 2 years service

£166.00pw

Carer with 5 years service

£196.00pw

Intensive Foster Placement

Care and expenses

Age of child

Care Payment Amount

Enhancement

Total Amount

0-4

£150.00pw

£79.00pw

£229.00pw

5-11

£188.00pw

£79.00pw

£267.00pw

12-18

£226.00pw

£79.00pw

£305.00pw

Fees

Type of carer

Amount (Detail Code EG009)

New Carer

£155.00pw

Carer with 2 years service

£166.00pw

Carer with 5 years service

£196.00pw

Supported Lodgings

Type of carer

Lodgings Standard/higher rate (FD057)+ Fee (EG009)

New Carer

£191.00/259.00pw + £42.00/51.00* pw

Carer with 2 years service

£191.00/259.00pw + £50.00/62.00* pw

Carer with 5 years service

£191.00/259.00pw + £65.00/92.00*pw

Emergency Duty Payments (maximum of 3 nights)

Type of Carer

EDT - Care Element (EG008)

Fee (EG009)

New Carer

£393.00pw

£51.00

Carer with 2 years service

£393.00pw

£62.00

Carer with 5 years service

£393.00pw

£92.00

Parent & Baby Placements

Foster Care Expenses:

£376.00 (£150.00 0-4 rate + £226.00 12-18 rate)

Fee:

Either £310.00, £332.00 or £392.00 depending on experience of carer

Intensive foster placement carers

Intensive Foster Placements are specifically for existing long term placements where the child/young person has particular needs and the foster carer is able to offer a potentially permanent placement and is able to commit to the requirements of the scheme in relation to attendance at the regular network meetings and support groups.

Supported lodgings placement carers

There are specific carers who offer placements to young people aged 16 to 21. The supported lodgings scheme managed by the 16 Plus Support Team is intended to be a step towards independence but recognises that some young people still need care and support. The weekly allowance includes a nominal contribution from the young person in placement towards their board and lodging. The 16 Plus Support Team pays the young person a weekly living allowance, which covers pocket money and clothing. We will tell the young person that as part of their preparation for adulthood the balance of their living allowance is paid direct to the carer.

Payments to carers for young people aged over 18 years

The accommodation requirements of a young person beyond their 18th birthday will be highlighted at the looked after child Review closest to that young person’s 17th birthday. If it is agreed that it will be in the best interests of that young person to remain in that foster placement post-18 (for example either for stability and continuity while completing their further education or having a learning disability and requiring ongoing support) then the funding arrangements for continuation of the placement will be discussed at a separate meeting. (ALSO SEE  'Staying Put' provisions elsewhere in this Handbook). Under Fostering Regulations, the placement must be converted on the young person’s 18th birthday from foster care to supported lodgings as one cannot legally, under Children’s legislation, foster an adult. In principle the payment for these placements will be at the supported lodgings rates which in most cases will reflect the changed nature of the job and responsibilities of the carer.

Parent and baby placement carers

Please see separate section in the foster carers handbook on parent and baby or parent and child placements. These are potentially very demanding foster placements with the carers expected to play a role in the supervision and assessment of the parents in placement alongside their support and advisory role. The carer would normally be paid an allowance for the parent at the 12-18 rate as well as an allowance for the baby/ child at the 0-4 rate [see outline of payments above].

Emergency duty payments

These are payable in respect of emergency placements of children of all ages made by the Emergency Duty team only. There are a small number of specifically nominated carers who also receive a retainer payment.

Respite care payments

Carers looking after children on a respite basis will be paid the normal fostering allowance. Respite foster carers may well find that they have differing expenses when looking after a child on a respite basis for example they will not be responsible for budgeting for clothing and holidays but could find they incur additional expenses in terms of leisure activities.

If carers have arranged for someone from their network, who is not approved as a foster carer to look after the child, that person will be paid the care elements of the fostering allowance but not the fee element.

Payments to carers having respite

Where brief respite is recommended as part of the support package to a placement foster carers will not be financially penalised and payments will not be stopped.

Childminding /day care

Where the Fostering Service has arranged for foster carers to offer day care to children looked after by other carers they can claim a childminding rate which is £5.00 per hour for the first foster child and then £9.00 per hour for more than one child. If a carer looks after a child for 7 hours or more they will be paid the equivalent of the fostering allowance (pro rata for 1 night). Claim forms can be obtained from the Fostering Team Business Support Officer at Moulsecoomb Hub South, Hodshrove Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 4SE, or from their supervising social workers.

Retainer payments

It has been agreed with local carers that as the majority of foster carers will have the opportunity to have children in placement 52 weeks a year, retainer payments will not normally be made. Also a retainer payment that is not linked to a child would disadvantage carers on benefits.

In exceptional circumstances a retainer in the form of a fee payment could be paid for a brief period. This could allow a particular placement to be kept ‘free’ for a period to enable the planned transfer of a child/young person from another setting to the retained foster carers. However, this should be rare.

Absence payments

Where a child is temporarily absent (but not discharged) from a carer’s home, a carer will be entitled to a maximum payment of two weeks’ basic allowance and further week of half basic allowance. There are various reasons for absence which could include temporary visits to relatives or friends, hospital admission or a child going missing. A placement can be held open for a maximum of three weeks by agreement at a planning meeting but should be terminated sooner if it is clear the child will not be returning.

Payments in the event of dispute or other circumstances

There are circumstances, fortunately rare, where a child may have been removed from a carer, and making placements with them is suspended for a period, and the carer and fostering service are in dispute. There are also very occasionally events, such as the death of a child in foster care, where it is not possible to place a further child with a carer until the investigation processes have been completed. In all these situations, the fostering service recognises that the carer may suffer hardship through no fault of their own, although all carers will be aware that there is no guarantee of placements. In these situations the fostering service may pay the carer an allowance, based on the payments that would have been made if one child had been in placement. The formula for this will be 4 calendar weeks full allowance, followed by up to 4 calendar weeks fee payment only, up to a maximum of 8 weeks in total, or to the date of the Agency Decision following the presentation of an early annual review to the fostering panel, whichever comes first.

Expenditure for which foster carers are expected to budget for from their basic care allowance:

Birthday and Christmas presents

The weekly allowance covers the cost of birthday and Christmas presents for a child or children placed with you, which was previously paid separately.

Fostered child(ren)’s holidays

Carers are expected to budget for the cost of holidays out of the weekly basic allowance. Carers are also expected to budget for school trips but can ask for assistance if a school trip costs more than £200.

Playgroup/nursery fees

Normally we would expect you to be financially responsible for any fees incurred for a place at playgroup or nursery that you had arranged for a child placed with you.

School costs

The weekly payment covers the cost of a school dinner or packed lunch, school fund contributions, replacement of uniforms, school photographs, day trips, school sports costs and transport to school (unless child is being transported a long distance to school).

Leisure activities

Carers will need to budget for membership of clubs, such as Woodcraft Folk, Brownies, Guides, Scouts and youth clubs and the basic equipment or uniform required. Carers should also plan for expenditure on other activities such as music, dance, swimming, and horse riding or cycling. However, if it looks as if there may be a major expenditure, such as buying a musical instrument and lessons, this should be discussed with the child’s social worker and your supervising social worker.

Transport

As part of normal family life, carers are expected to make the usual transport arrangements for children to and from school, medical treatment, therapy sessions, leisure activities, seeing friends, contact and so on. Children in foster care often have very high transport needs. The role foster carers play in transporting of children is an important one and it is expected that carers, wherever possible, will undertake the transporting of children. Where this is impractical, for example, where carers have demands from their own children or multiple placements or the child’s school is a long distance away, the carer must discuss with the child’s social worker and supervising social worker what alternative arrangements can be made. However it is not in children’s best interests to be spending long periods of time in taxis and as far as possible this should be avoided. Foster carers need to work with social workers to reduce the amount of time children spend in taxis and it is expected that carers will make a significant contribution to any foster child’s transport requirements and wherever possible will undertake a child’s transporting themselves.

Where carers are transporting children significant distances (above 60 miles a week) on a regular basis they can claim additional petrol costs (or public transport costs). This is in addition to the weekly allowance. Carers are asked to calculate the cost of the additional petrol used (above 60 miles). This is agreed with your supervising social worker and is then authorised by the Fostering Team Manager. The amount is added onto the carer’s weekly allowance and reviewed regularly.

Clothing

If children arrive at the foster home with insufficient clothing an initial clothing allowance will normally be paid. Carers must ensure that children’s clothing is well kept, appropriate for the weather and activity and replaced as required.

The weekly payment includes an amount for clothing needs. Carers should keep accounts for all expenditure on clothing for the child.

Pocket money

Please see separate section on pocket money and expectations of carers in terms of organising savings accounts for children in their care.

 

 

 

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