'Foster parents should be paid £168 a week'

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The Independent Online

Foster carers must be paid "attractive" remuneration packages to persuade more adults to forgo well-paid jobs and devote their careers to bringing up disadvantaged youngsters, a fostering organisation will warn today.

Foster carers must be paid "attractive" remuneration packages to persuade more adults to forgo well-paid jobs and devote their careers to bringing up disadvantaged youngsters, a fostering organisation will warn today.

More than 40,000 children in Britain live with foster carers, nearly all of whom receive only a weekly allowance to cover their expenses and no payment to reward their skills.

But the National Foster Care Association, which is changing its name to the Fostering Network today, says that "reward payments" and access to pensions must be introduced to tackle an acute shortage of carers. It says that without important changes to the system, the "standard of foster care in the UK will fall below an acceptable level".

The amount of expenses that local councils currently pay varies enormously across the country, from £50 to £300 a week. A handful of councils has introduced special payments to reward carers with vocational qualifications, but these are rarely more than £50 a week. Carers do not qualify for any state benefits related to their fostering responsibilities and do not receive pension contributions.

The network suggests carers are paid £93 a week to care for a child aged up to four, rising in steps to £186 for a child over 16, with higher rates in London.

Poor status has contributed to a nationwide shortage of 7,000 foster carers, Mike Jarman, the network chairman, will warn the organisation's annual conference today. He will say: "We need to recruit and retain many more carers, and this isn't getting any easier as society changes. We therefore need to adjust our thinking and offer a package attractive enough to bring people into fostering who currently have other careers."

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