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Foster care payments increased

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
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Foster care payments increased

SOCIAL work bosses are hopeful they can recruit more foster carers in Dumfries and Galloway after increasing their payments.

This region has a shortage of foster carers, which has resulted in the council spending a fortune finding external care placements for children outwith Dumfries and Galloway.

The council has been struggling to find enough foster carers because agencies and other local authorities offer much better financial renumeration.

While most local authorities pay foster carers a weekly fee and allowance, Dumfries and Galloway Council carers are only entitled to a weekly allowance of between £184 for youngsters aged 11-15 and £224 for those aged 16 and above.

But that will now change after councillors agreed to introduce an additional fee of £167.68 per week.

The move was agreed at the council’s social work committee last week in a bid to reduce the number of children going to external placements – and reduce costs overall in the long run.

Stephen Morgan, a senior manager with social work’s children and families section, explained: “We’ve had a significant reduction in the number of foster carers over recent years, largely down to the age profile.

“At the same time, we’ve struggled to recruit carers. We have some evidence that some of the people that have come forward to our recruitment drives over the past number of years have gone to other agencies or local authorities because of the fee.

“There’s also been a significant increase this year in having to purchase foster placements outwith – which largely leads to the overspend.

“So, the proposal here is to introduce a fee so that we can recruit more carers. We would anticipate that any placement we pay within the new model would be around £22,000 per year cheaper than purchasing an average price external placement.

“Some of this is about cost avoidance, but there’s clearly a risk in terms of the increase in the budget – and if all the children don’t come back into the region, there could be an extra cost there.”

It was heard that the average cost of an external foster care placement is £43,000-£44,000 per year, meanwhile a local placement with the new weekly fee and additional allowance would only be around £21,000.

Councillor David McKie, vice chairman of the social work committee, asked about another push being made for more foster carers along with the new changes.

Stephen Morgan replied: “We have an ongoing programme of recruitment and we do a drive a minimum of twice per year.

“I can assure members that that’s something we will do. Our hope is that this increase – with a fee and increased renumeration – we will be more successful than we have been recently.”

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