Many foster carers are “unable to afford to pay basic bills” due to a lack of government funding, a campaign group has claimed.
The problem lies in the ‘Staying Put’ scheme, according to the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers (NAFP). This programme was designed to allow children in care to remain with their foster parents until they turn 21, if the family is willing.
However local authorities cannot provide enough money to support those who allow their foster children to stay with them. In fact, the NAFP believes many carers are being pushed towards poverty.
This is not the first time the NAFP have drawn attention to the financial problems with the scheme. In 2015 they insisted that it would take more than the £40 million allocated to Staying Put to make it effective. This has since been increased to £44 million but the lack of support for carers has reportedly not been resolved.
Although the Conservative government has previously pledged a £22 million per year increase in the money available for Staying Put, the NAFP believes this was thrown into doubt when Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election.
Chief Executive Harvey Gallagher explained that many local authorities were “using housing benefit to support part of the Staying Put arrangement”. So when a young person claims such a benefit “their former foster carer becomes a landlord or landlady” he said. This creates “complications of bureaucracy and [changes] the nature of the relationship” between them.
Some foster carers will look after more than one child at a time. As they receive an income for this service, caring for several children is the primary source of income for many carers. However, for those who do not have room to take on others, the lack of funding is “putting an additional pressure on the household just when you want it to go smoothly” Gallagher told the Community Care news site.
Whoever wins the keys to 10 Downing Street after the election, the NAFP called on them to “bring up the lowest levels of support to something more manageable” for foster carers with older children.