Private foster agencies are luring carers away from councils with ‘golden hellos’, local authorities claim.
Foster carers are being offered up to £3,000 to join these agencies once they have been trained by their local councils. The assessment and training of each carer costs local authorities thousands of pounds. However the councils still have a legal responsibility for the care of vulnerable children in their region. This means if one of their carers joins an agency, the local authority has to then pay that agency to keep any children the carer is looking after in their placements.
Eight private fostering agencies made around £41 million in profit in 2014/15, according to a recent review conducted by government advisor and former civil servant Sir Martin Narey.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has condemned ‘golden hellos’ for foster caters as “immoral and wrong”. He also called on them to be “stopped with immediate effect”.
ADCS President Dave Hill said local councils were “very committed to recruiting, training and supporting foster carers”, a process which “costs a lot of money”. When private agencies lure these carers away, it leaves councils “massively out of pocket”, he claimed.
As local authorities have to pay the agencies, the money to do some has to come from somewhere. So this practice amounts to “simply just taking that money away from the needs of local children”, Mr Hill insisted.
Long-time Essex County Council carer Jan Hester told the BBC she knew “lots of foster carers [from private agencies] that now attend the foster carer support groups” because “they felt there was more training and more support with the local authority”. When there is a lack of support for the carers “ultimately it’s the children that are going to suffer” she said.
There is a serious shortage of foster carers in the country. More than 9,000 foster families are needed in England to look after the children currently in care, according to official estimates.
Photo by Judit Klein via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.