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More foster carers found after fee rise

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
More foster carers found after fee rise

A RISE in fees paid to foster carers has helped to prevent a decline in the much-needed service in Dumfries and Galloway.

The council’s social work chief has insisted that increasing payments – more in line with other local authorities – has resulted in more people being recruited as foster carers for children.

However, this has balanced out the overall numbers due to longer serving foster carers retiring over the last year.

For several years, Dumfries and Galloway Council had been struggling to find enough foster carers because agencies and other local authorities offered much better financial renumeration.

While most local authorities pay foster carers a weekly fee and allowance, this region’s carers are only entitled to a weekly allowance of between £184 for youngsters aged 11-15 and £224 for 16 and above.

That changed around 18 months ago when councillors agreed to introduce an additional fee of £167.68 per week.

At the social work committee last week, Stephen Morgan, the council’s interim chief social work officer, confirmed the move had worked, adding: “Even though our overall numbers haven’t grown, we’ve brought new carers into the service. The reason why we’ve lost some is primarily through retirements and other natural reasons why people can no longer foster.

“What I would say is that this hasn’t actually assisted the budget position because those carers have effectively replaced provision that was elsewhere.

“But what we have done is reduce the reliance on external placements, which cost tens of thousands pounds more than our own placements.”

He added: “Clearly the fee has helped because we’ve managed to bring people in. We’ve lost less than we have in previous years.

“It’s one of those scenarios where it’s been challenging, but I do believe it’s been a success.”

Referring to the extra measures being taken to recruit most foster carers, Mr Morgan explained: “We had an excellent recruitment campaign around the time of the last committee meeting.

“We think the dripping tap approach and the focused approach is the best way forward.”

Councillor Pauline Drysdale, chairwoman of the social work committee, added: “Hopefully we can see it progress going forward.”

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