Review seeks fairer fees for foster carers

foster carerFoster carer with child

Posted on: 29 March 2018

A review is underway as Devon County Council tries to make a complicated fee structure, less complicated and fairer to foster carers.

“We’re not looking to cut the budget,” says Cllr James McInnes, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the service.

“We want to come up with a formula that encourages more people to become foster carers; one that is fairer to all foster carers. But right now, we’re reviewing it, and we’ll see what comes of it and what foster carers think.”

The system of fees and allowances for foster carers recruited by Devon County Council has evolved piece-meal over years.

It’s an essential service to the Council, providing homes for children who come into their care, and as such foster carers are very highly valued by the council.

Foster carers aren’t employed by the council. They don’t get paid a salary. But they do get paid a fee and an allowance designed to cover the carers’ costs in looking after the child.

And those fees and allowances vary remarkably, depending on a range of factors, including how complex the needs of the child are; how experienced the foster carer is; and how much specialism is needed by foster parents to provide that level of care.

And there’s a sliding scale between Tier 1 and 3 foster carers – the majority – at the lower end of the fee scale, to Tier 3 foster carers at the top end of the scale.

The council has about 280 foster carers; comprising about 30 Tier 3s, and the remaining 250 are Tiers 1, 2.

Cllr McInnes said:

“The model we’ve got has evolved over time and is long overdue a review to see if it’s the right model to encourage more people to become foster carers.

“All children coming into our care need good robust placements, and if we’re not able to offer them an in-house foster placement, then we need to look externally.

“Crucially, we want to make the fee and support system more fair and equitable. At the moment a Tier 3 carer receives double the amount in fee and allowances than say a Tier 1 carer would for looking after the same 5 to 10 year old child.

“All of our carers are really valued, and we can’t do without them.

“And that’s the balance we want to achieve. We need to, because if we want to encourage more people to be foster carers with us, the fee model needs to be more equitable to make fostering for Devon more attractive.

“We’re working on models that reflect the needs of the child and we’re talking with all of our foster carers about the alternatives.

“It’s vital that we continue the dialogue with all our foster carers in order to get it right for everyone, and once we’ve narrowed down the options, we’ll be consulting with them again to see what they think. As yet, nothing’s decided.”

22 comments on “Review seeks fairer fees for foster carers

  1. Shirley Carnall says:

    I was also asked 35 yeas ago not to work as I would be caring for the under 5 age group mainly babies who needed caring for 24/7. Amongst the children I have had have been babies who were so unwell, they came home to me for end of life care. As I am “only” a tier 2 carer my financial reward was the same as any other tier 2 carer. We are also dealing with parents who have often been allowed to visit babies in our own homes.

  2. David Leyland says:

    Thank you Lynn Palmer for the clarification above. I agree that the vast majority of the 280 fostering households do fantastic jobs – I don’t think anyone would disagree. Likewise, we should all agree every Tier 1 and Tier 2 Carer deserves “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work”. The progression to Tier 2 is clear and transparent but at you say, the progression from Tier 2 to Tier 3 currently is not, hence the need for this review. I really look forward to seeing a clear and transparent career progression plan for those Tier 2 carers who wish to progress to Tier 3.

  3. Marion Leyland says:

    Tier 1 and Tier 2 carers – I agree that your fees and allowances should be increased to attract and retain new carers. But is it fair that this review may cut Family Care Worker Scheme payments in order to achieve that balance? In no other organisation would they say “your wages need to come down to pay others”. Is it fair that after 15 years 100% commitment to fostering, my work is suddenly devalued? Until this review, I was told I could not have any other employment – how can I go back to my professional career after 15 years fostering? Or am I missing something?

    • Marion, thanks for your comments. Just want to reiterate that nothing has been decided yet, that this is a review – and a major part of the review is finding out what foster carers like you think.

  4. Lewis Crowden says:

    Cllr McInnes seems to have been misled with regard to the facts and doesn’t seem to be interested in putting matters right. My colleagues have expressed much of what I would have said and I would wish my name to be associated with all their remarks. It is interesting that in Cllr McInnes piece above he Says “it is vital we continue the dialogue…….. Pity he didn’t get around to replying to my letter sent to Cllr Hart on 20th March and forwarded by him to Cllr McInnes to reply!

  5. Andrew & Stephanie Randall says:

    Where in any other arena of employment would you find a situation where some part of the workforce has their pay reduced to pay for another part of the workforce? Perhaps some of the social workers would be willing to take a pay cut to pay for support workers? Or perhaps the councillors? No, I thought not. So why are we, who are patronisingly told that we are valued and the work that we do is appreciated, expected to? The most experienced and skilled foster carers are being targeted to reduce their pay – is this fair and equitable? The process by which this has/is being carried out is fatally flawed, has caused nothing but bad feeling between foster carers and the authority and between the different levels of foster carers. The thing is that as foster carers, who fight for the rights and freedoms of the children they look after, we are not daunted by this, nor of taking whatever action is required to stop an injustice taking place. Its what we do every day.

    Turning to the actual facts of the matter – apart from Councillor McInnes misquoting the rates that Tier 3 carers get paid in the media on two occasions – the area where the authority could make real savings is to grow the internal capacity of foster carers, rather than pay external foster agencies to provide care. In 2017/18 it cost £833 per week on average to place a child with in external fostering (Devon County Council Revenue Budget 2018/19, Medium Term Financial Strategy to 2021/22 and Capital Programme 2018/19 – 2022/23) compared to an internal fostering cost of an average £446 per week. That is quite a bit extra. There are 173 children in external fostering according to the same document, meaning that this will cost nearly £3.5 million more than if placed internally. Interestingly, the forecast for 2018/19 financial year is for the number of internal fostering households to reduce by 20. Why forecast a reduction in numbers, if the authority are convinced that the revised rates will prove attractive to carers?

    If Tier 2 carers are looking after children with more challenging needs, then the carers should be paid appropriately, or the children should not have been placed with the carers in the first place. The fact that this does not happen is a fault in the system, not with foster carers who will always do their utmost to provide appropriate care to children they look after.

    It is said that foster care is a vocation, not a career. Many of us were told that we could not take other paid or voluntary employment if we became Family Care Workers, now subsumed into Tier 3. That meant in many cases giving up or foregoing professional and well remunerated careers – ones that cannot be returned to now after many years absence. That is our commitment. In addition, most of us have bought houses or extended our homes to provide further and better accommodation for the children we look after, not to mention vehicles to transport them with. I would also draw a similarity with health care professionals who it could be said also work in a vocational capacity. They are not expected to work for nothing and it does not prejudice their ability to meet the needs of their patients in a professional way. Nor does it in our case, as it has been suggested by some.

    The real issue in this case is that we are the easy target. We have no rights with which to fight our case. We have no pension provision, holiday pay (other than two weeks paid holiday, which we have to seek permission to take) or sick pay. The Family Care Worker Scheme was ended without any consultation with the carers involved of any sort. In fact, we were informed that it was just a change in name.

    Councillor McInnes quotes in the newsletter a tier 1 carer looking after a child aged 5 – 10 receiving half of the payment that a tier 3 carer receives. Whilst this is true, it is a misleading use of statistics to demonstrate a point but no doubt will grab a headline or two. The fact is that:
    • Tier 1 carers represent 13% of all carers (Freedom of Information August 2017)
    • Children aged 6-10 represent only 20% of children in care (Looked After Children Performance November 2017 – Devon County Council)
    • The comparison of these two levels of carers is fatuous. The children looked after by these two levels of carers are not (or should not be) comparable. The difference in payment reflects the difference in the skills and experience of the carers. These two levels of carers should not be looking after the same type of child. Tier 1 would be a newly appointed or less experienced carer where as tier 3 would be more skilled and experienced. The requirements of the child should determine the placement with appropriate carers. The placement team should not place children with inappropriate carers but should match accordingly.
    • Clearly the comparison was selected to try and make a case for the authority’s actions. The fact is that 51% of carers are Tier 2 and 36% are Tier 3. The majority of children in care are aged 11 – 15. A comparison using these groups would have been more realistic but wouldn’t have been so good a story.
    • In a lot of cases, the authority get two carers for the price of one, where a couple will be providing foster care, but only receive a payment per household.
    We read that the authority is trying to be honest and transparent, but we see little evidence of this in the process and actions that the authority is undertaking. We would welcome an open honest and transparent process and discussion.

    Finally, this does not just affect just Ex-Family Care Workers, who number around 33, and upon whom most of the attention has been focused. According to a Freedom of Information response in August 2017, there were 97 Tier 3 carers, 36% of the carer workforce. How many of the other 64 Tier 3 carers are aware that their rates are potentially going to be cut?

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond. No final decision has been made and I have passed your comments to the right people and they will help to determine the outcome of the review.

  6. Lorraine Taylor says:

    It would be really good if these reports were correct if a tier one or two carer has a tier three child then there is something wrong with the matching system not the pay system we gave up careers to take on Fcw requirements it’s not like know you have decided we can go back to work as these most troubled children don’t really need our full time expertise and therapeutic care that we can just walk back into our jobs after 10 plus years of service we have given you
    No foster Carer should lose out financially at all with this new pay restructure let’s be fair

  7. Kerry Little says:

    ‘The same 5 to 10 year old child’ who I have looked after for over 18 months now was previously bounced around the lower tier Carers 7+ times – left at school once and I collected her (age 9) from the police station. She has benefitted enormously from the skills that we as full time tier 3 Carers have. This is a very common occurance. The added traumas from these placement breakdowns on top of the massive trauma inflicted by birth family only makes our job harder.
    I fear that this so called consultation may have to be restarted if Cllr McInness, who has been in the loop from the start, still does not understand that it was a REQUIREMENT that ex FCWs gave up their employment, if he still does not ‘get it’ then I wonder how the facts are being portrayed at the ‘workshops’. Please check with your legal team that the facts are being properly reported.

  8. Caroline Maund says:

    I am rather disappointed that Councillor James McInnes seems to be so poorly informed whilst it seems advocating divisive terminology: “Review seeks fairer fees for foster carers”. The existing fee system allows for progression and rewards the households with the knowledge and ability to help the most challenging of children in the system.

    The children that Tier 3 foster carers care for should never be compared with the children that a Tier 1 or even a tier 2 carer is asked to take.
    Tier 3 carers take children that have been with other carers and the placement has failed due to severe behavioural issues; some will have been to much more expensive private fostering agencies or to residential settings; many will have a history of making false allegations; many cannot be placed with other children; some have a history of setting fire to the carers home or property; a history of having sexually assaulted another child; a history of smearing faeces on wall or clothing or hiding faeces around the house; a history of sexually assaulting carers dogs or pets; a history of criminal activities; a history of cruelty to carers pets; a history of repeated absconding; a history of drug abuse; a history of having physically attacked or assaulted previous foster carers or their children; many have a history of exclusion or expulsion from educational settings; some sadly have a history of abuse from previous educational or residential settings.
    Every child placed with additional funding has a story to tell, often their behaviour is as a direct result of the failings of the Social Services Fostering system. We MUST NOT fail them again.

    Councillor James McInnes seems to believe that the restructuring of foster carer fees is not to do with saving money or of having a static budget for more children and yet that is exactly what we the foster carers were told at the initial consultation.
    The comparison between all carers should be between what in-house provision costs compared to what is paid to the Independent Fostering Agencies and the residential units, we were informed that in house provision cares for 75% of all CIC yet the IFA’s, private agencies and residential units take 75% of the finance available. Surely this is the issue that needs addressing.

    A report as a result of a Freedom of Information request clearly states that Tier 3 households are not the minority within fostering as believed by the Councillor.
    Tier 1 – 34 households
    Tier 2 – 135 households
    Tier 3 – 97 households
    https://new.devon.gov.uk/accesstoinformation/archives/information_request/foster-care-allowances-and-fee-structure

    Tier 3 carers are one of the biggest and best investments your service makes: their skills and knowledge continually grow through training, experience, and other development initiatives, often self-funded, towards the Carers Progression Scheme which recognises the complexity of care undertaken.. The Carers Progression is dependent upon evidence of competency at annual review and backed by evidence such as specific tasks completed, records of observation, relevant experience, and a supporting statement.
    Dedicated carers must be helped to progress if you want the maximum return-on-investment for your department. Carers at a higher level are more able to foster a child or children with more complex needs or more challenging behaviour. They often also play a significant role in recruitment, training, or representation within the Social Services Department.
    Most mainstream carers and social workers feel relieved to know that there are more experienced carers that are willing and able to support the most challenging of children in the system and can step in to help support them and the child.

  9. Kerry Little says:

    Replying to Devon Newscentre. A decision has been made by ex FCWs that we will not accept a pay reduction.

    If any other considerations are being discussed then the ACTUAL true facts as we have continually stressed should be used and no other half truths and fake news.

  10. David Leyland says:

    I would like to request two “Fact checks”.

    Fact check no 1: “Not cutting the budget”. If the 30 ex-FCWS have a cut in their current rates, surely that is a cut in the budget? 23 of the 30 ex-FCWS households are campaigning that NO foster carer suffers financially as a result of this review (supported by the Fostering Network and the IWGB trade union for Foster Care Workers, as well as their local County Councillors and Members of Parliament).

    Fact check no 2: “around 30 Tier 3 carers”. My count of the ex-FCWS, DYPAS, Child and Parent carers comes to around 55 carers. I also know that some Tier 2 are being paid Tier 3 rates for children in their care (which I support) so the figure of Tier 3 is between 60 and 70 by my calculations.

    Request: That DCC state that there will be NO reduction to current payments, creating a new Tier 3 payment somewhere between the Tier 2 and the current rates for DYPAS, Child and Parent, ex-FCWS, to ensure a fair and equitable career progression which will attract and retain new carers.

    • Thank you for this, and for all of the comments below. You’ll be aware that no decision has been reached yet and that we’re currently talking to all of our foster carers as part of this review. We will forward your comments to the correct team to help inform the ongoing review.

  11. Martin Little says:

    This is very misleading. Tier 3 (ex fcw) cannot have any employment, this has to be their only job. They have given up employment in order to dedicate their whole lives to caring for the most vulnerable children and hence offer the most cost effective therapeutic full time parenting.
    This is inciting negativity between foster Carers.

  12. Kerry Little says:

    It is unfortunate that these comments are incorrect and will potentially create unrest between the tiers! Despite it being made perfectly clear, and explained in person and in writing to management, local politicians and committees, yet again there is no mention that it was COMPULSORY for the tier 3 (ex family care workers) to give up all employment – paid or otherwise. This is why they are paid an enhanced rate. It is not helpful or in fact correct to compare tier 1 and tier 3 in this way, this should be corrected immediately.

  13. Maggie Peters says:

    At the risk of repeating myself l am again pointing out that those 30 odd tier 3 carers were required to give up their jobs when they were appointed as FCWS – that is why they were paid ‘twice as much’ as level 1 carers. Also level 1 an 2 carers had the choice of becoming level 3 carers if they wished – as long as they met the criteria

    • Lynn Palmer says:

      As well you know Maggie,, carers taking the younger children 0-7yrs were not eligible for Tier 3. As you state, the FCWs scheme required the carer to give up work in order to be available 24/7 to meet the needs of the young person. However, historically, children could only be placed with Tier 3 / FCWs once they’d had multiple placement breakdowns and were over 7years old, they were cared for up to that point by Tier 2 carers! Many Tier 2 carers also work with very traumatised babies and toddlers which is 24/7, plus facilitating contact with birth family.
      I look forward to the many varied skills of foster carers being acknowledged, as together we make an incredible team able to support children and YP of all ages with their diverse needs.

    • Leigh Strange says:

      Hi Lynn, I don’t think Maggie was denigrating the work any carers on other tiers do – quite the reverse. While it’s true the FCW scheme was created to support children over a certain age (in much the same way as the DYPAS scheme supports older children again) and some children on the FCW scheme were, sadly, subject to placement breakdowns, the aims of the scheme were, in fact, to support children with complex behaviour that required a specific and individual programme of care. Some of those children were actually placed with FCWs purely because those carers had been identified as being equipped with the necessary skills to support them. I don’t doubt that some very complex children were already (and still are) being supported by tier 2 carers, (I, personally, know many who certainly have significant skills) but the fact is that FCW carers were “required”, by Devon, to give up their jobs if they wanted to support children with ‘complex behaviours that required a specific and individual programme of care’. Many carers were offered the option to join the Scheme – perhaps some chose not to because they weren’t willing to make the sacrifice others did, in giving up their jobs (and income) to do it. You’re right, all carers in Devon are working with very traumatised children (including the babies and toddlers you refer to) and every carer should be acknowledged and rewarded for the work they do on Devon’s behalf, but any carer who was required to give up their job (and their income) to support any child on Devon’s behalf surely has a right to challenge any intention to now remove the only source of income they were forced to rely upon. I’m fiercely proud to be counted among Devon’s foster carers and, like you, believe we make a fantastic team – and a phenomenal resource for Devon – but it saddens me that some carers appear to think less of those who made, what could be called, the ultimate sacrifice for their child in care, in actually giving up their work to support them. It’s worth remembering that those carers saved Devon’s Fostering Service tens of thousands of pounds from otherwise having to send some of Devon’s children to residential placements and out of county placements. It’s also worth remembering we’re all doing this for the same reasons. Like you, I hope Devon will do the right thing by ALL of its carers – and honour the promises it made. Otherwise, what promises can any of us be sure will be kept in the future?

  14. Ann Lynn says:

    Please get your facts right before trying to cause dissent among the foster carers. Tier 3 carers DO NOT look after the same children as Tier 1 and 2 and if a child has been so badly matched with a tier that hasn’t got the experience and abilities to cope then they need to be supported and trained up to tier 3 standard to look after that child. Alternatively the council can pay an extra £300 a week to an IFA for their profits and the independent foster carer will still receive the same as a tier 3 carer. Tier 3 carers have had to give up careers in the past to support these children.

  15. Leigh Strange says:

    No foster carer would disagree with any intent of the Local Authority to improve allowances for ALL carers in Devon, particularly those on the lower tiers, since we well know first hand how challenging this role can be, and how carers deserve to be supported and rewarded for the work that they do. What some carers are concerned about, however, is the Fostering Service’s previous promises, (whereby enhanced allowances were agreed in consolation (reward) for some carers’ acceptance of the demands from the service not to work for any other employer (paid or voluntary) so they could focus entirely on their fostering role) appear to be now ‘up for grabs’ in the Fostering Service’s attempts to “encourage more people to be foster carers” for Devon.

    Carers have expressed concerns that some of the most experienced carers (and, incidentally, most loyal carers to Devon) will ultimately be expected to pay towards the planned changes. Indeed, the Service is resistant to reassuring carers this will not happen, so carers feel they are being placed in a position of having to prepare for the worst.

    Carers believe the LA should honour the promises it makes to its carers. They believe it’s essential to ensure trust in the service in the future (after all, if the Service can go back so easily on promises it made to carers in the past, how could carers possibly trust the Service to honour any commitments it makes in the future?)

    1. The idea that a system that ‘steals’ from a minority group to bolster the income of a majority is fundamentally flawed, since the message it sends is that no-one’s allowances are safe.

    2. It is neither ‘fair nor equitable’ to remove allowances from even one carer to supplement the costs of paying another. This would not be considered ‘fair’ in any other workplace. If, as Councillor McInness frequently states, Devon ‘values its foster carers’ why then does its Fostering Service believe its foster carers deserve to be treated in such a way?

    3. The idea that future recruitment will be better served by such changes is short-sighted. Carers in Devon are often prominent members of their own communities and, moreover, experienced carers are often highly prominent in the recruitment of new carers. If any carer is to be subject to their allowances being effectively ‘hi-jacked’ in this manner, they are likely to feel wronged and unlikely to promote the Service to others in their community.

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