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Region struggles to find foster carers

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Region struggles to find foster carers

SOCIAL work services are facing a budget overspend of £1.25m amid a worsening struggle to find foster carers for children in the region.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has invested heavily in trying to solve its foster care crisis, but after taking one step forward the local authority is now two steps back.

Social work bosses reported in August that allocating an extra £392,000 to facilitate a rise in fees for foster carers had been successful in recruiting more people locally to look after children.

A new council report has since revealed that the position has changed – and there is now even more pressure for the council to find expensive external placements for youngsters without a home.

A report, due to be tabled at next week’s finance committee, stated: “An update on the implementation of the fostering fee was provided to the social work committee in February 2023, which indicated that the service had been successful in recruiting seven new foster carers, but that six existing foster carers had de-registered during the same period.

“Since February, a further eight foster carers have been deregistered, resulting in there currently being 38 fostering households.

“In addition, the number of children requiring to be supported through fostering and family placements increased over this period and has therefore resulted in an ongoing pressure.”

Given the unpredictable nature of the work carried out by the social work department in supporting families and children requiring care, the social work budget faces a shortfall most years.

Finance chiefs have confirmed that £1.295m of funding has been set aside for ‘recurring budget pressures’, such as the social work need for more investment. It will be decided at the end of the financial year how this money will be allocated.

In the meantime, councillors are being asked to agree to direct £197,000 of the money to support the implementation of an increased allowance for foster carers and kinship carers.

The Scottish Government introduced this new allowance, but didn’t provide councils with all the cash to pay for it. Dumfries and Galloway Council is now tasked with finding the additional £197,000 from its own budget.

Foster carers and kinship carers will receive an uplift of anywhere between £11 and £47 per week, depending on the age of the child – and payments will be backdated to April this year.

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