Foster care crisis hits hard across Dumfries and Galloway

By Marc McLean & Dumfries and Galloway Standard

Dumfries and Galloway is facing a foster care crisis.

The system is set for a shake-up after it was revealed that carers are paid over three times more in some neighbouring regions.

And a shortage of foster homes has resulted in the council paying up to £22,000 a year per child for external placements and anticipating a £428,000 budget overspend.

Foster carers across Dumfries and Galloway – with the exception of those providing intensive support for children – are entitled to a weekly allowance of between £184 for youngsters aged 11 to 15 and £224 for those aged 16 and above.

But those in the Scottish Borders, Cumbria, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, and South Ayrshire are all paid a weekly fee of £117 to £270 in addition to a weekly allowance of £129 to £246.

In North Ayrshire, all foster carers receive a standard weekly fee of £400 per child up to the age of 18, along with a £200 per week allowance.

This means that a typical foster parent there looking after an 11-year-old child is renumerated 326 per cent more than a carer in the same scenario here.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has a shortage of foster carers – and is being forced to spend a fortune finding external care placements for children outwith the region.

Social work chiefs have now warned that failing to provide fostering placements in the region is “both a failure to meet our corporate parenting responsibilities for our most vulnerable children, at times of crisis in their lives, and a financial risk for the council”.

The heavy financial consequences of the failing foster care system are laid out in a report due to be tabled at the council’s social work committee next Thursday.

It reads: “The family placement budget is forecast to significantly overspend in financial year 2021/22 with a projected overspend of £428,000, with the pressure coming from external placements.

“We envisage that this trend will continue unless we are able to offer a competitive support and financial package to prospective carers, to provide for an attractive proposition for those who may consider giving up employment to foster children.”

At the moment, there are 63 fostering households looking after 90 children in Dumfries and Galloway.

Currently – based on age and level of support for the child – 45 of those fostering households who look after 79 children receive the allowance but no weekly payment.

Sheila Clingan, social work manager for children and families, is now recommending that the council introduce a weekly payment of £167 for those foster carers.

With 22 children currently living in external placements at a cost of £22,000 each per year, she suggests it will give more incentive to foster carers in this region and be more cost effective for the council.

She said: “It would make it a more attractive scheme to retain current foster carers and potentially increase the numbers of foster carers we can recruit to meet the needs of vulnerable children.”

Social work councillors will discuss the matter next Thursday morning.

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