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7.1.9 Foster Care Payments

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The following information sets out the principles underpinning the Fostering Payments Scheme, and clarifies the respective financial responsibilities of both carers and the Children and Families Services department in meeting the needs of children looked after by Swindon Borough Council.

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE

Overpayment of Fostering Allowances and Fees Policy

AMENDMENT

A link to additional guidance on the overpayment fostering allowances and fees has been added in February 2017.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Basic Principles of the Scheme
3. Weekly Rates 2012-13
4. What the Weekly Allowance Covers
  4.1 Pocket Money
  4.2 Pocket Money and Clothing Allowances for Young People Aged 16+
5. Birthdays, Christmas and Holidays
  5.1 Birthdays
  5.2 Christmas
  5.3 Holiday Allowance
6. Retainer Fees and Temporary Absences
7. Respite Care
8. Day Care
9. Travel Expenses
  9.1 General
  9.2 School Transport
  9.3 Other Travel Expenses
10. Emergency Placements
11. ‘Home and Away’ Scheme
12. Miscellaneous Expenses
13. Summary


1. Introduction

This document sets out the basic allowances payable to Swindon foster carers for the year April 2013 - March 2014. The allowances are in accordance with Fostering Network recommended rates, but are significantly higher in the 11-15 years age-band.

Details of the Skills-Based Fee scheme can be found in;


2. Basic Principles of the Scheme

  • "Fostering Allowances should reflect the real costs of looking after children and the special costs that arise in looking after foster children. Foster Carers should receive adequate basic allowances so that they are not always coming to social workers ‘cap in hand’ to ask for additional amounts of money” - Fostering Network 2001;
  • The basic Fostering Allowance is intended to reimburse costs; it does not contain a fee or reward element for the carer. Accordingly, the Allowance is not liable for Income Tax;
  • The Payment Scheme should be easy to understand, open and transparent in its application, and simple to administer. Carers need to be clear about the costs that the allowance is intended to cover;
  • Allowances are paid automatically, and with the minimum of delay;
  • The Allowance should be set at a sufficient level to cover all the normal day-to-day expenses incurred in caring for a foster child, in accordance with the provisions of the Foster Care Agreement…“to care for any child placed with them as if they were a member of the family”;
  • Additional discretionary payments outside the scheme will only be payable in exceptional circumstances.


3. Weekly Rates 2012-13

The following table shows the rates of the allowance that will apply for the year commencing 2nd April 2013.

For children in the 0-10 years age group and those aged 16+ the rates are equivalent to those recommended by the Fostering Network. For children/young people in the 11-15 age-range the rates continue to be enhanced by approximately 15% above the Fostering Network recommended figures. This reflects our continuing commitment to providing family-based placements for this traditionally ‘hard-to-place’ age-group, but also recognises that historically this group has always commanded the largest proportion of the ‘additional allowances’ budget.

Such additional expenses are now subsumed within the weekly basic allowance.

From April 2013 Age Band
0 - 4
Age Band
5 - 10
Age Band
11 - 15
Age Band
16 - 17
Fostering Network
Recommended Allowance
£137.18 £156.52 £194.53 £236.64
Swindon Basic Allowance £137.18 £156.52 £224.28 £236.64

Foster carers will be entitled to 56 'weekly' payments. The “extra” four weeks are to allow for expenditure connected with birthdays, Christmas* and holidays. (Two x weekly payments are made for holidays.)

Payments are made fortnightly, for the period up to and including the Friday night of the week in which the payments is received. Payments are calculated on a nightly basis, starting from the first night in placement, and therefore do not include payment for the date on which the placement ends.

*See Section 5, Birthdays, Christmas and Holidays for further information on how these ‘additional’ payments are made. For children who do not celebrate Christmas, an equivalent payment can be made for an alternative significant religious or cultural celebration.


4. What the Weekly Allowance Covers

Food
  • All meals, including outings, treats and special occasions;
  • School dinner money or packed lunch.
Clothing
  • Initial* and replacement clothes and shoes;
  • Party clothes;
  • Youth organisation clothes;
  • Nappies;
  • School uniform*;
  • School sports kit.

*There may be occasions when an ‘advance payment’ is needed in order to adequately equip a child who has become Looked After at short notice. Such payments will be deducted from the weekly allowance at a rate agreed with the foster carer.

Transport
Personal
  • Pocket money;
  • Toys/games/books;
  • Sporting and social activities;
  • Hobbies, dancing, music, sport;
  • Subscriptions to clubs;
  • Treats and outings;
  • Presents for child's friends/family, (within reasonable limits, at carer’s discretion);
  • School trips*;
  • Toiletries/personal requisites;
  • Playgroup/nursery fees, except where such provision is part of the department’s care plan for the child;
  • Some telephone calls (e.g. Friends/family).

*The cost of normal school trips will be met from the basic allowance, but exceptional school holidays will be paid for separately by the Department once during a child's primary education (7-11 years) and once during the secondary period of education (11 plus).

Household
  • Household costs (including cost of breakages of most items in daily use), additional gas/electricity, wear and tear of furniture, carpets etc, telephone usage, durable goods e.g. TV, washing machine. Baby sitter for family activities.

The Fostering Network no longer provide a breakdown of the allowances under the various component headings; Carers are expected to use their discretion in administering the allowances in accordance with their own particular parenting styles and practices, and the individual needs of the child placed. They will need to take into account a number of factors such as the age and ability of the child, and the length and purpose of the placement. The allowance therefore is paid to the carers for them to use as necessary, and there is no prescribed amount within the allowance to which the child has an automatic "right".

As a rough guide, however, it is assumed that approximately one third of the total allowance will be spent on the child's personal needs, including clothing and pocket-money* (but not including food).

4.1 Pocket Money

The basic allowance includes provision for pocket money and, whilst it is not helpful to be too prescriptive, for most carers and most foster children it will be appropriate for a specific weekly amount to be designated as pocket money and this should be agreed at the point of placement.

Carers will need however to be cautious about creating expectations that the child’s family may not be able to meet if/when the child returns home.

Suggested amounts are currently as follows:

Age Band Pocket Money
0-4 £1.50 - £2.00
5-7 £2.00 - £3.50
7-10 £3.50 - £5.00
10-12 £5.00 - £7.00
12-14 £7.00 - £10.00
14-16 £10.00 - £15.00
16+ See Section 5, Birthdays, Christmas and Holidays

It will be important for both carer and child to be clear about what these amounts are, and are not, expected to cover from the above list; the Placement Agreement Meeting can provide a useful opportunity for this to be discussed and agreed!

However, young people will not be expected to buy toiletries/personal hygiene requisites from their pocket money.

Similarly, these suggested amounts do not include any money given to the child directly as a clothing allowance - this will vary according to the carers own preferred style of budget management and the individual ability of the child to manage their own financial affairs. For some older children, for example, it will be appropriate for them to be given full responsibility for their own clothing needs - and an allowance to match. For others, carers will need to attend to all the child’s clothing needs

4.2 Pocket Money and Clothing Allowances for Young People Aged 16+

The personal allowance arrangements for young people over 16 years are slightly different, and are designed to promote increasing independence and self-responsibility. As with the other age-groups, the basic fostering allowance includes provision for pocket-money and clothing and the minimum recommended amount to be given to the young person is for the current year £25.00 p.w. For a young person who has left school / full-time education but is not in employment, this is considered to be sufficient to meet their pocket-money requirements and enable them to take some financial responsibility for their personal needs. (It is not expected to meet all their clothing needs, see Section 4.1 Pocket Money.)

Young people over 16 in foster care, and care leavers aged 16-19 who choose to remain in full time education beyond compulsory school-leaving age are now entitled to receive a bursary of £1200.00 per year. Students will need to apply for this directly to their school or college. (The young person's social worker or your Family Placement Officer can provide information on how to apply.) Foster carers will continue to receive the personal allowance element of the fostering allowance (£25.00) which should be passed on to the young person in accordance with the department’s policy of encouraging young people to make maximum use of educational opportunities.

Where a young person remains in education and obtains part-time employment, they will retain all their net earnings. However, if those earnings exceed £75.00 p.w. they will not be expected to also receive the personal allowance from the carer, and the basic allowance will in those circumstances be reduced by £25.00 p.w. These young people may also be entitled to a bursary, but for if the course is shorter than 30 weeks, or part-time, the bursary may be less than £1200 p.a.

Young People in full time employment will be required to contribute 25% of their net earnings, after deductions of essential costs associated with their work (e.g. travel, tools and equipment). Carers will not be expected to pay these young people the £25.00 personal allowance element and this will be deducted at source from the basic allowance.

The department will then meet the difference between the young person's contribution and the fostering allowance of £208.00 (= £232.00 - £25.00).

Where necessary, the Department will take responsibility for making suitable arrangements with the young person to ensure that their contribution is paid.

These arrangements are summarised below:

Details Notes Personal Allowance

Young people unemployed.

 

This sum is included in the basic allowance. £25.00

Young people continuing in full time education beyond compulsory school leaving age.

 

The young person will also be entitled to claim a bursary of £1200.00 p.a. £25.00
Young People in full time education with part time employment. - Earnings less than £75.00 per week. £25.00 + all earnings.

Young People in full time education with part time employment.

 

- Earnings exceed £75.00per week.
The young person may be entitled to claim a bursary.

All earnings, but no personal allowance*

Young People in full time employment.

 

Carer's Basic Allowance will be reduced by £25.00 p.w. and the 25% contribution from the young person.

No personal allowance.

Y.P will retain 75% of all net earnings.

(*Carers basic allowance will be reduced by £25.00 p.w.)


5. Birthdays, Christmas and Holidays

5.1 Birthdays

An amount equivalent to one week's basic fostering allowance will be paid in the fortnight prior to the child's birthday. Where a placement ends after payments have been made but before the child's birthday, the issue of recovery of the 'over-payment' will be subject to individual negotiation.

This will be particularly relevant where the child has moved to another foster placement - as a general principle, no child will receive more than one birthday allowance per year.

5.2 Christmas

An amount equivalent to one week's basic fostering allowance will be paid in the first payment fortnight in December, unless the child does not celebrate Christmas. In this case the foster carer may apply via the child's social worker for the allowance at any time of the year when an equivalent significant festival is held. Finance Section will need to be informed if the allowance is not to be paid at Christmas.

5.3 Holiday Allowance

Carers are entitled to receive the equivalent of two week’s basic fostering allowance for each child, (or, in the case of short-term placements, succession of children), that they care for over the period of a year. The allowance is paid on application by the carer, and can be claimed at any time of the year. It is payable if required for two separate weeks at different times of the year, and can be paid even if the carer is not going away on holiday, e.g. to cover the costs of day trips or other entertainment activities during the school holidays.

Where children experience a number of changes of primary placement, there may be some circumstance where the holiday allowance in respect of a particular child is payable more than once, to different carers. (This does not apply where the child is receiving regular planned respite - see Section 7, Respite Care below.)

However, no carer will receive in any one year more than the maximum allowance payable for the number of children for whom they are approved, including ‘exemptions.’

Example: A carer approved for 3 ‘short-term’ placements will be entitled to a maximum of 6 weeks holiday allowance (= 3 children x 2 weeks allowance), irrespective of the actual total number of children placed during the course of the year.


6. Retainer Fees and Temporary Absences

Where a child is unexpectedly temporarily absent from a foster home e.g. as a result of absconding, or a sudden hospital admission, the full basic allowance will be paid for the first two weeks of absence, and half the basic allowance for the third and fourth week, provided that it is intended the child will return to the foster home. This decision must be made by the Fieldwork Manager and notified to Children and Families Services' Finance Section.

Where a child is at boarding school, or in other circumstances where a placement is reserved with a particular foster carer, precluding the carer’s use for other placements (e.g. a planned long-term hospital admission) a retaining fee of 50% of the basic allowance may be paid. This assumes that the carer will retain full responsibility for the child’s clothing and pocket-money and other personal expenses. Where this is not the case (e.g. where the school fees include such costs) any retainer fee will be subject to individual negotiation.

Where children are spending planned short periods at home as part of contact arrangements or a rehabilitation plan, carers will continue to receive the full basic allowance unless otherwise agreed through negotiation. Where the full allowance is being paid, carers will continue to be responsible for the child’s clothing and pocket money.


7. Respite Care

Carers who provide brief periods of respite care to children, either on a planned regular basis or as a ‘one-off’ in response to a crisis, will receive the appropriate pro rata proportion of the basic fostering allowance.

Where such placements involve children living at home, this arrangement is straightforward. For children already in foster care, the situation is somewhat more complex, since respite arrangements can result in the department having to pay twice for the same period of care for a child.

The following criteria will therefore apply to respite arrangements in respect of children already in foster care:

  1. Where the arrangement has been made as part of the agreed care plan for the child (e.g. where regular planned short breaks are necessary to sustain a problematic placement, or ‘time-out’ is needed in an emergency due to a crisis generated by the child) the main carer will continue to receive the basic allowance for up to one week, after which payment will cease for the duration of the respite period.

    Where necessary, transport costs to and from the respite placement will be met by the department;
  2. Where respite is requested by the foster carer for reasons not directly related to the child (e.g. a family event; holiday; carers own need for a break) 50% of the basic allowance will be deducted from the basic allowance paid to the main carer for each day of respite, up to the first full week. Thereafter, payment will cease for the duration of the period of respite.

    Carers will in these circumstances be expected to make their own transport arrangements to/from the respite placement.

    However, exceptions may be made in certain circumstances, for example where a family crisis or illness necessitates temporary alternative care arrangements being made for the foster child.

In both circumstances, the primary carer will retain responsibility for the child’s clothing and pocket money for the first week of respite; thereafter full responsibility for the child’s care will pass to the respite carer.

To avoid misunderstandings, it is strongly recommended that the financial implications of any respite arrangement are discussed and agreed in advance with the child’s social worker and/or Family Placement Officer


8. Day Care

Foster Care, like parenting, needs to be recognised as a ‘full-time’ activity for the duration of a child’s placement, even for those carers who are in full-time employment.

In keeping with the principle that foster carers will care for any child placed ‘as if they were a member of the family’ (Foster Carer Agreement) it will normally be the responsibility of carers themselves to make suitable provision for children who unexpectedly need to be looked after or supervised during school hours (e.g. through illness or temporary exclusion). The revised allowances include an element to cover any costs incurred in making such arrangements. Where the provision has been necessitated by the child’s own actions or behaviour (e.g. exclusion) it may be appropriate for a proportion of the costs to be recovered from the child’s personal allowance (i.e. through deductions from the child's pocket-money, at an agreed amount).

Where necessary, the department can assist in providing day care, usually with another foster carer, at a current rate of £3.50 per hour. Depending on circumstances, where such arrangements are made, a deduction of £1.50 per hour may be made from the carer’s basic allowance.

Where children are out of school for a prolonged period as a result of permanent exclusion, and awaiting alternative education provision, the department will meet the full costs of any necessary alternative day care with no deduction from the carer’s allowance.


9. Travel Expenses

9.1 General

The travel costs element included in the basic fostering allowance is intended to cover all normal expenditure incurred by the carer in providing all the foster child’s transport needs in accordance with the principle of them being cared for as if they were a member of the family.

The Department recognises however that travel costs for foster children are likely to be higher than for the carer’s own children, and this is reflected in the level of the allowances now being paid. The rate is designed to cater for the additional costs involved in attending meetings, reviews etc. in respect of the child, as well as in most part for any travel costs incurred by the carer in implementing contact plans for children with their birth family.

9.2 School Transport

The allowance is in most circumstances considered to be sufficient to enable carers to assume responsibility for ensuring the child’s continued school attendance, even where the placement is outside the school catchment area. Geographically, Swindon is a relatively small Borough and the transport costs for most children placed in foster homes within the Borough and attending Swindon schools, whether provided by the carer themselves or via public transport, are catered for within the basic fostering allowance.

There are however circumstances in which the department may need to agree special transport arrangements for some children. Examples include children placed in foster homes outside the Borough but continuing to attend Swindon schools, or children whose particular educational needs or behavioural problems render them unsuitable or unsafe for ‘normal’ transport facilities. Where carers take multiple placements, with children attending different schools, it may be impractical for carers to provide the transport. In such situations, usually requiring the use of voluntary drivers or taxis, the responsibility for meeting the cost of the transport will need to be agreed on a case by case basis.

It should be borne in mind, however, that since a travel element is built into each child’s fostering allowance, carers with multiple placements are receiving that element x the number of children placed. This will work to the carers financial advantage where, for example all the children attend the same school.

9.3 Other Travel Expenses

Being a foster care involves more than the day to day care of a child: cares are expected to attend various meetings with professionals such statutory reviews, school meetings etc, as well as attending support group meetings and training events not directly related to a particular child. These latter activities are seen as part of the carer’s responsibility for their own professional development and carers will therefore be expected to meet their own reasonable expenses incurred in attending. The department will however meet the actual costs of training (e.g. course fees) including travel costs where the training is provided outside of the Borough.

The department is continuing to explore ways of providing appropriate assistance to those carers whose family size, including foster children, exceeds the passenger capacity of their own vehicle. At present, each situation will be considered individually on its merits.


10. Emergency Placements

The Family Placement Team holds a record, updated daily, of foster carers who are available and willing to take emergency placements made outside normal office hours through the Borough’s Emergency Duty Service.

Carers who take such placements will receive a cash payment of £50.00 in recognition of the ‘inconvenience factor’ involved in taking placements at such short notice. (This sum is irrespective of the number of children placed.) This sum is additional to the basic fostering allowance payable in respect of each child from the first night of placement.


11. ‘Home and Away’ Scheme

The ‘Home and Away’ Scheme is a specialist scheme operating within the Family Placement Team, providing regular planned short-term breaks to children with disabilities.

The basic fostering allowances for Home and Away scheme carers are in line with 'mainstream' fostering rates, although an additional enhancement is payable in recognition of the additional costs likely to be involved in caring for children with disabilities. Payments are calculated on a ‘per night’ basis covering periods of up to 24 hours. There are two age-bands.

Current rates applicable to the scheme are as follows:

‘Home and Away’ Scheme Rates 2013-14
Age range Daily rate (24 hours) Enhancement Total
0-10 years £22.36

£9.09

£31.45
11-18 years

£33.81

£16.74 £50.55

By virtue of the distinct nature of the scheme, some of the elements of the payments scheme detailed above will not be applicable to Home and Away Carers. The basic principles do however equally apply.

The Council’s Payment for Skills scheme applies to all foster carers, including those working within the Home and Away scheme.


12. Miscellaneous Expenses

Whilst the basic fostering allowance is designed to cover the vast majority of the costs involved in being a foster carer, some items of expenditure required in respect of individual children will continue to be met by the department. Examples include:

  • Passports;
  • Birth Certificates;
  • Photographs / materials associated with Life Story work;
  • Health Care costs* e.g.:
    • Spectacles/contact lenses;
    • Dentistry work (braces etc).
  • 'Hospitality’ costs associated with child’s contact with birth family.

(This list is not exhaustive. Other costs specific to a particular child should be discussed with the child’s social worker.)

*N.B. Most Health Care needs/ costs will be met by the NHS. Where charges may apply, expenditure should be agreed in advance with the child’s social worker.


13. Summary

It is hoped that these notes will be of help in clarifying some of the areas of confusion and uncertainty that have existed previously in understanding the mutual responsibilities of the department and its foster carers in meeting the needs of looked after children.

However, no payments scheme, however detailed, can realistically hope to cater for every eventuality; whilst the revised allowances seek to minimise the need for additional payments there are sometimes likely be situations requiring special consideration.

If you feel you are experiencing a financial need in connection with bringing up a foster child which is not covered within the basic allowance scheme described here, you should discuss it with your Family Placement Officer or the child’s social worker to see if a discretionary payment may be available.

The department will continue to keep the level of allowances under review, and the possibility of introducing a fee/reward scheme remains our objective, as and when the necessary financial resources become available.

If you have any queries about this document or the scheme in general, please do not hesitate to contact your supervising social worker at the Family Placement Team.

End