The Scottish government must live up to its decade-long promise to introduce minimum fostering allowances, so carers like me can provide more for children
"Foster carers do an amazing job,” Nicola Sturgeon the told Scottish National party conference in October. I’m a foster carer in Scotland, and it’s nice to be praised for a job well done, but that’s not why I foster.
I foster because I want to give the children and young people I care for the same opportunities as their peers. I want them to have a positive experience of family life. I want them to have the love, security and stability that will help them to flourish.
But giving children all these things is becoming increasingly difficult for financial reasons. Like all foster carers, I receive a monthly allowance to cover the costs of looking after children. The allowance is supposed to cover things such as food, clothes, after–school clubs, transport, pocket money, household costs and so on – but it doesn’t.
In Scotland, unlike in the rest of the UK, there is no minimum rate for fostering allowances; the amount a foster carer receives is a postcode lottery. We’re not talking about foster carer pay, remember, we’re talking about the money foster carers receive to spend on and provide for children. The majority of local authorities in Scotland give an allowance which is less than the minimum recommended allowance in Wales. It feels deeply unfair.
It’s unfair to foster carers but it’s especially unfair to fostered children and young people. The fact that there is no minimum allowance either means that children are missing out, or that foster carers must subsidise what the government – as the corporate parents of looked after children – ought to be paying for. Because we want the best for the children we care for we, of course, dig into our pockets to make up for the shortfall when we can.
The young people I look after have often experienced significant trauma or abuse before they come to live with me. I want to give them every opportunity to experience the positive things in life, to do well at school, to learn an instrument, to take part in sport, and to go on school trips. But the fact that I can’t afford to offer them all these opportunities is a great cause of frustration. Other foster carers I speak to feel the same way. A minimum allowance, bringing Scotland into line with the rest of the UK, would mean that I can provide more for the children I care for – and that’s why I, and others like me, foster.
The Scottish government has been promising to introduce minimum fostering allowances for 10 years. The Fostering Network has recently written to Mark McDonald, the Scottish minister for childcare and early years, about the situation. There’s still no sign of the promise becoming a reality.
It’s nice to be told by the first minister that we’re doing a good job, but even nicer would be to see the government live up to its financial responsibility to looked-after children in the new financial year.
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