The financial incentives offered by some fostering agencies should be banned, the Local Government Agency has declared.
So-called ‘golden hellos’ of up to £3,000 are used by some for-profit agencies to tempt foster carers onto their books after their local authorities have already spent thousands on their training. The practice is highly controversial, and was described as “immoral and wrong” by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
Now the Local Government Association (LGA) has joined calls for golden hellos to be banned. The loss of trained foster carers to private agencies raises costs and reduces the amount of money available for child protection services. Councils unable to meet the demand for foster care have little choice but to pay private agencies for access to carers they may already have paid to train.
The LGA called on the government to ban golden hellos in the forthcoming Children and Social Work Bill.
Chair Richard Watts explained:
“Councils are looking after more and more vulnerable children and young people, and independent fostering agencies provide a valuable service in making sure we have a wide range of foster carers available to meet the needs of different children. Unfortunately, a minority of these agencies appear to be taking advantage of the system, and we feel it is immoral that such significant private profit is being made on the back of vulnerable children and young people.”
The £41 million in profit generated by eight of the largest for-profit fostering agencies in a single year could fund the care of 1,200 children, he added.