I have often considering fostering, before I had children and as they’ve got older. Being able to help a little child get support in the start of their journey, to me, feels like the most courageous thing anyone can do. One of the common concerns that would-be foster carers talk about is money. It’s a taboo subject in society as a whole. However, for foster carers, it can be an even greater minefield. It is vital that prospective foster carers realise that foster caring is a paid profession. You will be financially supported to ensure that you can provide a good level of care and support to the children you foster.
Fostering payments – how they work
Fostering payments are effectively split in to two parts. Firstly, there is the fostering allowance. This is paid for each foster child and is designed to be used on the child’s day-to-day care needs and expenses. Secondly, fostering payments include a professional fee. This is the ‘income’ component of being a foster carer as a job.
The government sets minimum weekly amounts for the allowance. These vary according to two factors: where you live; and, the age of the foster child. The younger the child, the lower the allowance is. For example, a foster carer of a baby outside of London or the South East will receive a minimum of £127 per week as the weekly allowance. A foster carer of a 16-17-year-old in London will receive a minimum of £222 per week as the allowance. These rates are reviewed each April.
In addition to these minimum rates, you may receive an additional allowance in the event that the foster child has specific needs, or you have additional training for particular types of placement such as mother and baby, or asylum-seeking children.
The government also determines that some income from fostering is eligible for its own tax exemption. This is for up to £10,000 per year which must be shared between all foster carers within the same household. In addition, you also don’t have to pay tax on some of your fostering earnings over £10,000.
This allowance should cover those expenses incurred in caring for the child. This may include such things as food or mileage. However, as long as the child’s needs are met, the foster carer determines how it is used.
Fostering payments from agencies
The minimum rates for allowances, along with the tax elements, are set by the government. However, fostering payments themselves are not regulated by the government. Therefore, agencies (or local authorities) can choose to pay either the minimum rates or their fostering payment rates.
This means that agencies may choose not to differentiate how much they pay according to age, as long as they meet minimum requirements for their location. In reality, most pay much more than the minimum required.
In essence, the purpose of going ‘above and beyond’ is to enable a foster carer to provide care on a full-time basis. Viewing it as a career is beneficial to an individual foster carer, the children in their care, and the local authority.
How can you use the fostering payment?
Part of the payment provided to you is to, of course, meet the living costs of homing a foster child. It should, therefore, be used for daily expenses and household bills. A foster carer is responsible for ensuring a child in their care has clothing, food, entertainment and the like, just like any parent. However, there are no hard and fast rules as the costs will vary depending on the household and the child.
In addition, the professional fee element is like your pay. You can, of course, choose how to spend this as you wish.
You may also be entitled to various benefits depending on your circumstances.
It’s not just about money
It is also important to realise that your ‘reward’ package isn’t just about finances. When choosing an agency through which to foster, you should look at the wider benefits available. For example, what training are you provided with and how is this offered? What support do you receive as a foster carer?
Weigh up the whole package of support and ensure you are being treated fairly and in a supportive manner.