A group of British foster carers have formed the profession’s first ever trade union.
Yesterday 60 current and former foster carers gathered in a Parliament committee room to vote in favour of unionising. At the meeting, they expressed worries about their legal rights, including pay, pensions and paid leave. One person who spoke at the gathering said they did not know “anyone else who works and doesn’t get a pension, sick pay, holiday pay, or recognition as a professional”.
Foster carers are paid an allowance to cover the cost of taking a child into their home. This can range from £150 to £500 each week. They also receive an additional fee based on their own level of experience.
However, they are not officially recognised as employees as they do not have contracts of employment with the local authorities or private agencies they work for. As they are technically not employees, they do not qualify for the legal rights which come with that status such as a minimum wage, sick pay or holiday pay.
Another point of concern for the 60 professionals who met in Parliament was due process. Currently, they have very little input when children are removed from their care. Sometimes, they are even left entirely out of the decision-making process.
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell attended the meeting. He supported the foster carer’s vote to form a union, saying they provided “an essential role in our society, and … carry a burden for the rest of our community so they should be properly recognised”.
Foster carers “have never really been recognised and had legal rights”, he declared.
The meeting was called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee believed a foster carers union represented a step in the right direction. Carers “form part of a professional network responsible for looking after some of society’s most vulnerable individuals” he said, stating that “foster care workers should be remunerated properly, treated fairly, and have recourse to due process”.