Lisa Nandy: Foster carers should get more money for the work they do

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The Independent Online

The right fostering placement can completely transform children's lives. It can be the make or break point for them and equally it can be devastating for a young person to be put into the wrong situation. Fostering is incredibly important for families in crisis, but a real and pressing problem has largely gone unnoticed and shortages of carers unaddressed for too long.

There needs to be more investment. The current system relies to quite an extraordinary extent on the passion and goodwill of the people who become foster carers. Yet for a lot of these families and carers this also involves financial hardship. Allowances can be minimal and not all carers get paid.

Where children have gone into the care system, they often have high needs that can involve carers having to cut down the hours they work or give up employment altogether in order to do the best thing for the child.

Compared to supporting a young person in the residential care system, this is relatively inexpensive. Foster carers will often look after more than one child and become extremely skilful in their particular area of expertise. But the importance of the work they do for society is not reflected in the level of financial support they receive.

The writer is Labour MP for Wigan, member of the Education Select Committee and a former adviser at The Children's Society