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7.1.10 Foster Care "Payment for Skills" Scheme

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.

The document does not cover the situation where any carer subsequently obtains a Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangement Order or Adoption Order. If such Orders are made the fostering allowance ceases to apply and the respective allowance policy should be considered.

All payments to foster carers are processed by the Fostering Team. The Fostering Team aims to ensure that foster carers receive their payment without delay. Carers should speak to their Supervising Social Worker about any payment request or queries. They should not ask the child’s social worker about payments as this causes confusion and sometimes delay in payment. Where a foster carer’s request for payment relates to a child’s particular needs, the Supervising Social Worker will liaise with the child’s social worker about whether the payment is appropriate.

The budget covers all payments that are directly made to foster carers. If children’s allocated workers are unsure who has responsibility for a particular cost, they should consult the fostering service.

Foster carers are reminded that it is their responsibility to retain their remittance advice for tax purposes.

LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011;
  • Fostering Services Regulations 2011;
  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Regulations 2010;
  • Children Act 1989 and 2004.


Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. Key Principles
  3. Definition - Skills Payment Scheme
  4. Level One Foster Carers
  5. Level Two Foster Carers
  6. Level Three Foster Carers
  7. Level Four (Specialist) Foster Carers
  8. Foster Care Payments Payable
  9. Summary


1. Purpose

To outline the criteria and process for the payment structure for Foster carers approved by Swindon Borough Council.


2. Key Principles

  • To provide clarity of the criteria and process for the payment structure for approved Foster carers;
  • To provide clarity to all relevant parties about the role and responsibilities for each level of Foster carer;
  • To ensure fairness and transparency when determining and reviewing levels;
  • Carers must meet all the expectations and skills required of them at application or review before consideration for progression to another level/to stay on their current level.

All Swindon Borough Council foster carers receive the National Minimum Fostering Allowance; this is paid to foster carers to cover all costs in relation to looking after children and young people. The Swindon Fostering Allowance is linked to the Department of Education National Minimum Fostering Allowance, ‘Rest of the Country’ Rate.


3. Definition - Skills Payment Scheme

The Skills Level Scheme is open to all generally approved foster carers (not including Connected Persons Carers). Swindon Borough Council’s scheme has four levels each of which has specific requirements (1, 2, 3 & 4 Specialist). Foster carers are able to move from one level to another if they meet the requirements and competencies for each level upon application or at annual review. In addition, should carers not continue to meet the requirements or competencies of the level on which they are placed, they may move to another level that best meets their circumstances following review. Payments are paid for each child in placement.

Movement between Levels

  • Movement between Levels may be recommended Annual Review. This is the time where a large amount of evidence is gathered in one document that shows the work of a foster carer over the past year. The Supervising Social Worker will discuss the recommendation with the foster carer, which will be based on the evidence of the annual review;
  • The Independent Reviewing Officer may suggest a movement between Levels but the recommendation will be made by your SSW;
  • This will then go to the Fostering and Adoption Team Manager who will agree to this or not;
  • In the event if a dispute this will go to the Service Manager for a final decision;
  • Fostering Panel will be informed of any movements between Levels and will continue to see Annual Reviews in the normal manner;
  • Movement to Level Four will require the Fostering and Adoption Team Managers Approval, Service Manager and ADM. This will also be seen by Fostering Panel;
  • There may be occasions where foster carers come to the Borough and move to Level Four immediately. This would be where they are already experienced foster carers at this level and are willing to accept the conditions required, or where they have significant, evidenced professional experience in working with children with extremely high needs;
  • Movement between levels will not be an automatic right but will be based on evidence;
  • In the event of a carer not meeting the required standard for their current level, a plan of action will be made, as part of the Annual Review, to rectify this with timescales in which to do so. If the carer does not fulfil these actions they may be moved to the level below their current one. If the carer is on Level One the consequence may be suspension from fostering and potentially de-registration.


4. Level One Foster Carers

This level applies to foster carers who have been assessed as meeting the requirements and competencies of the Level 1. In order to progress to the next level, Level 1 foster carers will need to evidence that they have fully met the requirements and competencies for Level 2 through the Annual Review process (Connected Persons carers cannot progress past this point).

Requirements

Approved as a Foster carer following an assessment undertaken in line with schedule 3 of The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, where they must evidence the competencies set out below.

Competencies

Caring for children

Foster carers are required to meet the developing needs of children placed in their care through the provision of a good standard of care.

Providing a safe and caring environment

  • Foster carers are assessed to provide safe care for the child placed;
  • Foster carers need to provide safe and secure accommodation to meet the needs of the child/children throughout the time they are living with them;
  • Foster carers are expected to highlight safeguarding concerns to both their supervising social worker and the child’s social worker immediately;
  • Foster carers should expect to receive at least one unannounced visit per year in order to safeguard children.

Working as part of a team

  • Foster carers will understand and know the individual needs of the child/children placed;
  • Foster carers will be required to work closely with the wider children’s services department in meeting the child’s identified needs; they must ensure the children are available when their social workers need to do statutory visits;
  • Understanding the changing nature and focus of changing relationships;
  • Foster carers will work to minimise the trauma of loss & separation;
  • Foster carers will work to achieve a smooth transition for the child, which will require ongoing work with the supervising social worker and child’s social worker, as part of a team;
  • Foster carers need to be available for monthly supervision with their supervising social worker and to use this time to discuss any issues which affect them in caring for the child. Supervision provides the opportunity to discuss any concerns or difficulties they are experiencing in caring for the child/children and the changing nature of their new role as a foster carer;
  • Foster carers are required to support contact in a safe way with birth parents and extended family members where this is in the best interests of the child;
  • Foster carers are required to attend all meetings in relation to the child placed including parents evenings if part of the child’s plan;
  • Promotes equality, diversity and the rights of individuals within society as well as being able to reflect on their own prejudices.

Own development

  • Foster carers are provided with information in relation to support services that meet their particular needs;
  • A programme of training is available, and specific training can be provided;
  • Once approved, Level 1 Foster Carers will be expected to successfully complete the Training, Support and Development Standards during the first eighteen months after approval;
  • Complete mandatory training as identified by the training guide.


5. Level Two Foster Carers

Level One Foster Carers, may progress to Level Two, if they fully meet the requirements and competencies for Level Two and is agreed by the Fostering Team Manager.

Requirements

  • To be fully compliant with the NMS Fostering Services 2011;
  • To be fully compliant with all SBC policies relating to the care of looked after children;
  • To complete a personal development plan identifying their learning and development needs for their first year as level one carers; this will be reviewed annually;
  • To consider all placements of children within their approval category, if available to foster;
  • To demonstrate evidence in their caring role of their skills to meet the needs of children who have experienced trauma and significant harm;
  • To successfully complete the Training, Support and Development (TSD) Standards workbook within 18 months of approval. If a foster carer is transferring from another agency and previously completed a TSD work book, the competencies must be demonstrated during the assessment.

Competencies

Caring For Children

  • Ability to provide a good standard of care to children which promotes healthy emotional, physical, sexual and intellectual development;
  • An ability to provide care appropriate to the individual needs of the child;
  • An ability to work closely with children’s families and others who are important to the child;
  • An ability to set appropriate boundaries, and manage children’s behaviour within these, without the use of physical or other inappropriate sanctions or behaviours;
  • A knowledge of normal child development and an ability to listen to and communicate with children appropriate to their emotional age and understanding;
  • An ability to promote a young person’s development towards adulthood.

Providing a safe and caring environment

  • Develop a family safer caring policy which will be reviewed annually or after any significant change in the household;
  • An ability to ensure that children are cared for in a home where they are safe from harm or abuse;
  • An ability to help children keep themselves safe from harm or abuse, and to know how to seek help if their safety is threatened;
  • An ability to recognise the particular vulnerability to abuse and to discrimination of disabled children;
  • All children placed must be provided with their own room and personal space;
  • Expect to receive at least two unannounced visits per annum in order to safeguard children.

Working as part of a team

  • An ability to collaborate with other professional workers and to contribute to the department’s planning for the child/young person;
  • An ability to communicate effectively. An ability to produce written records for court and as a contribution to the child’s case records, to identify any changes in behaviour and any reasons for this;
  • An ability to keep information confidential;
  • Promotes equality, diversity and the rights of individuals within society as well as being able to reflect on their own prejudices.

Own development

  • An ability to appreciate how personal experiences have affected themselves and their families, and the impact that fostering is likely to have on them all;
  • An ability to use people and links within the community to provide support;
  • An ability to use training opportunities and improve skills;
  • An ability to sustain positive relationships and maintain effective functioning through periods of stress.

Foster carers should maintain an ongoing training and development portfolio that demonstrates how they are meeting the skills required of them. They must complete the mandatory courses for all carers.

They must also attend at least four support groups in the first year.


6. Level Three Foster Carers

In order to remain at Level Three, foster carers need to continually evidence that they fully meet the requirements and competencies of this level.

Requirements

  • Must have completed TSD Standards and all requirements of Level 2;
  • Must have completed other relevant training as identified within their personal development plan, drawn up with their Supervising Social Worker as identified in their annual review.

Competencies

Caring for children

  • An ability to encourage children to develop appropriate social behaviour, helping them to become more independent and enabling them to cope with their emotions as appropriate to their age;
  • An ability to help children develop basic aspects of memory, thinking, imagination and manipulative skills through play etc;
  • An ability to help children develop their language skills, and general self-expression;
  • An ability to help children learn the boundaries of acceptable behaviour without resorting to physical punishment; handle negative reactions, naughtiness, and unacceptable behaviour, and encourage positive behaviour patterns;
  • An ability to plan for and provide a varied and appropriate routine which balances the child’s needs, including those of play and learning and gives goals which can be achieved in measuring the child’s development;
  • An ability to help children and families cope with loss and bereavement resulting from life threatening illness, separating through adoption or loss of their idealised family.

Providing a safe and caring environment

  • An ability to observe and respond appropriately to the possibility of child abuse and neglect;
  • An ability to observe and assess children, clearly recording development, and anything else significant to the child;
  • An ability to challenge, appropriately to ensure that fostering is anti- discriminatory in its approach and respects all children and their families.

Working as part of a team

  • An ability to work closely with other professionals, sharing information, exchanging skills and working under the guidance, or in collaboration with others involved with the child;
  • An ability to promote the educational development of children Looked After including evidence of contributing to PEP meetings, attending school/college consultation meetings, supporting home learning and accessing training/activities provided by the Virtual School;
  • An ability promote the health needs of Children looked After – healthy lifestyle, attendance at appointments, recording information in the Red Health Book or the Health Passport;
  • Promotes equality, diversity and the rights of individuals within society as well as being able to reflect on their own prejudices.

Own development

  • An ability to identify and access support and training opportunities;
  • To use this learning to improve carers own practice;
  • Successful completion of Training Support Development (TSD);
  • Attendance at (at least) 3 post approval courses, as well as all the training identified for Level 2 Foster Carers;
  • Foster Carers are expected to contribute to the service by being part of development groups, e.g. training strategy, or recruitment strategy. They are also expected to mentor or Buddy new or inexperienced foster carers or contribute to the Skills to Foster course.


7. Level Four (Specialist) Foster Carers

  • Level Four carers are expected to have the experience and skills in caring for children with more complex and challenging behaviours, including bail and remand placements;
  • Progression to Level Four will require an assessment evidencing that foster carers have met all the requirements and competencies as described in Levels One, Two and Three. Level Four progression is recommended by panel at approval, or at review and agreed by the ADM;
  • A carer cannot progress to Level 4 for a child already in placement. The carer must evidence the competencies and then accept a new placement deemed to have the specific needs to require a Level 4 carer;
  • It is expected that Level 4 foster carers will continually evidence these requirements and competencies, as monitored through their annual review. A step down to Level Three may be considered via the review and panel process if carers wish to move or they are unable to evidence they are meeting the standards required;
  • Due to the nature of the placements being taken it is expected that Level 4 carers will be able to provide full time care for children and not work (if there are two carers then one will have to be able to stay at home full time).

Requirements

  • Accepts the child as an individual and tailors responses in recognition that a child’s behaviour may not be in line with their chronological age and will fluctuate according to their emotional state;
  • Evidences the ability to work with children who have experienced chronic abuse and trauma whilst understanding the impact this has on all areas of development;
  • Attunes their responses and behaviour to the underlying reasons for a child’s behaviour;
  • Works closely with children’s families and others who are important to the child. Supports the child to deal with their emotions surrounding their family;
  • Sets appropriate boundaries and manages children’s behaviour without the use of physical or other inappropriate responses;
  • Is open to implementing new parenting techniques which may be outside of the parenting norm;
  • Promotes children’s progress towards independence at a developmentally appropriate level.

Providing a Safe, Caring and Therapeutic Environment

  • Ensures that children are safe from harm and abuse and develops children’s awareness and skills in keeping themselves safe;
  • Evidences understanding of how aspects of parental care can trigger traumatic stress and respond sensitively to help the child to work through this therapeutically;
  • Assesses the risks a child might pose to self, others and/or environment and the risk others might pose to the child, and acts to reduce this;
  • Understands underlying reasons for risk taking, destructive behaviour and pushing boundaries. Responds therapeutically acknowledging the behaviour as a function of past trauma and/or a stage of development;
  • Recognises and responds to the particular vulnerability to abuse and discrimination of children with a history of trauma.

Working as Part of a Team

  • Work in a way that promotes good professional relationships and shows an understanding of different roles;
  • Communicates effectively with colleagues, verbal and non-verbal and is able to provide succinct written information on the child or young person in their care;
  • Is able to evidences knowledge of confidentiality and what information should be shared, with whom and when;
  • Is able to contribute to care planning, including being able to present information about the child or young person that might challenge the views of other professionals, but remains able to work with the differences in best interest of the child;
  • Promotes equality, diversity and the rights of individuals within society as well as being able to reflect on their own prejudices.

Professionalism and Own Development

  • Is able to appreciate how personal experiences and past relationships have affected themselves and their families;
  • Is able to understand the impact that fostering is likely to have had on themselves, their families and their relationships;
  • Can identify and manage their own responses to a child’s behaviour and show openness to reflect and explore the responses made by others (school, family and friends);
  • Is able to identify appropriate support networks, whilst demonstrating resilience and adaptability;
  • Have reflective and analytical skills that enable effective use of supervision and learning and development opportunities;
  • Proactively seeks to advance skills through training and acquiring knowledge and development opportunities. Can recognise areas where further development is needed;
  • Is able to present professionally and can effectively contribute their views, advocate for the child and engage in professional discussion in either written or verbal form;
  • Completes clear, balanced, detailed and reflective recordings that are timely and maintain confidentiality in line with policy and procedures.

Consideration can be made for Level 4 carers to take on a second placement; however this requires careful matching consideration for the other child in placement.

Retainers

  • Level 4 carers may be paid a retainer of up to 4 weeks (skills payment) if no child is placed with them;
  • Level 4 carers should be aware that declining placements offered will be monitored. Three refusals of placements or notice being given on placements without agreements and due consideration from the Fostering Service, will result in carers being moved to Level 3;
  • There will be a limited number of Level Four respite carers who receive an ongoing payment for skills of £100.00 per week. They will be expected to manage all types of respite regardless of the area of speciality;
  • This is also applicable to remand carers who receive a retainer of £150.00 per week if a child is not placed;
  • Retainers are utilised to enable carers to have some financial assistance in between specialist placements in the unlikely event that a suitable placement is not forthcoming. This is because specialist carers are recruited on the basis that the main carer does not undertake additional paid work;
  • Whilst it is anticipated that some foster carers would wish to progress to Level 4 they must be able to demonstrate that they are able to meet and maintain their Level 4 status. The Fostering Panel must be satisfied that all Level 4 competencies continue to be met;
  • Should Level 4 foster carers cease to meet these competencies or be unable to manage the complex needs of specialist placements, but provide a good standard of care for children and young people following a review at panel they will become Level 3 carers;
  • Some Level 4 carers will continue to be paid at the higher rate if it meets the needs of the service. For example, those carers who offer sole placements to young people for who residential is the only other option. Such placements are more holding placements with therapeutic input being less likely.

Staying Put

Please see the Staying Put Policy Document.


8. Foster Care Payments Payable

Annual Supplement

The Fostering Allowance (2017 – 2018)
Swindon Borough Council Fostering Allowance from 1st April 2016

0-4 5-10 11-15 16-17
£147.00 £167.00 £240.00 £254.00

Fostering Fees 2017/18

Level Fee
One - Entry Level / Connected Persons £58 per child per week
Two £80 per child per week
Three £135 per child per week
Four - Specialist
  • Specialist Out of Hours Emergency/Bail & Remand: £250 per placement, per week (plus Allowance);
  • Parent and Child: Assessment Placement £615 per week, Support Placement £460 per week (plus Allowance);
  • Significantly challenging adolescents: £250 per placement per week (plus Allowance.

Foster Carers’ Annual Leave

Foster Carers will be paid a 2 weeks annual leave payment, calculated according to the number of placements for which the foster carer is approved to take. This payment is processed in April each year and will be received by carers by mid-June. The first payments will be made in 2018.

Respite carers receive one week’s annual leave payment per placement approved for.

The child’s placement plan should include arrangements that need to be made for foster carers’ annual leave and advance notice of this (ideally 28 days) should be communicated to the Supervising Social Worker. Annual leave can be taken separately from the family holidays.

Arrangements for annual leave need to be discussed with Supervising Social Workers, taken when a child is not placed or alternative arrangements have been made within the family network with people known to the child. It is essential that moves in placement for children are minimised. Careful consideration to foster carer’s annual leave will minimise the amount of placement moves for children.

Annual Leave will be monitored and recorded by Supervising Social Workers and can consist of weekends or longer periods of time.

If a foster carer is unable to take annual leave, does not wish to take annual leave or it is not in the interests of the child to take annual leave then they will still be paid the annual leave payment.

The taking of annual leave is not a right, it will depend on the needs of the child.

Disturbance Payment

Where a placement is booked with a foster carer but not made, a disturbance payment will be paid to cover the expenses of the carer in preparing for the placement.

  • Disturbance payment (1 child) - per day £14.25;
  • Disturbance payment (siblings) – per day £21.47.

This payment will be made within one calendar month of the cancellation and at the discretion of the Fostering and Adoption Team Manager

Bed Blockers, Sessional Payments and Retainers/Emergency Carer Payment

Bed Blockers

Where, on account of the complex needs of a particular child, a foster carer is required to restrict the number of children in placement, an additional payment for skills for each approved place 'blocked' may be paid. This must be set out in the child's care plan and placement agreement, agreed by both the children’s social worker and Team Manager and approved by the Team Manager, fostering team. Disputes may be raised with the Service Manager of the relevant child’s social work team and Service Manager of the Fostering Service.

Retainers and Sessional Payments

  • The payment is also made to carers holding a placement for children where care proceedings have been, or are about to be, initiated; for pre-adoption placements; the period of the payment will be agreed at the outset by the fostering team manager;
  • There is also a Sessional rate of £8.80 per hour may be paid to carers who assist in any recruitment/training activities which do not involve staff;
  • Carers who have the appropriate skills may be identified to offer additional support to other carers to help support placements at risk of breakdown. This will involve a discreet piece of work identified and formally agreed by professionals involved in the case. Any carer asked to undertake such a piece of work will be paid a sessional rate of £8.80. Carers will be matched on the basis of their skills and abilities.

Complaints and allegations

  • If a child is moved, or no placement made, due to an allegation, complaint or concern having been raised, the allowances will cease to all foster carers but at the Council’s discretion carers may continue to receive their payments for skills for a maximum of sixteen weeks. This is paid per child based on the number of children in placement at the time of the alleged incident;
  • The decision to pay carers during dispute will be made on a case by case basis by the fostering Team Manager in conjunction with the Service Manager, Fostering Service. Foster carers will be informed of this authorisation by their supervising social worker and/or fostering Team Manager at the earliest opportunity; this will be followed up with written notification from the fostering Team manager;
  • The payment during investigation is a supportive measure to ensure that the foster carer is not financially disadvantaged during this period.

Equipment

When Swindon Borough Council newly approves a foster carer, we acknowledge that a certain amount of equipment is required in order for them to undertake the fostering task. We may be prepared to fund certain equipment, if the foster carer does not already possess what is needed.

Each foster carer is to be allocated a maximum amount for what we consider to be basic equipment/furniture. If foster carers require something specific e.g. a more expensive item to fit in with furniture they already have we would expect them to fund the extra.

For newly approved foster carers, approved to take babies, we will provide up to £500.00 per no of placements approved for to cover the purchase of the following:

  • Cot and mattress;
  • Pushchair/buggy, etc;
  • High chair;
  • Car seat;
  • Sterilizer unit;
  • Baby monitor;
  • Bedding.

For newly approved foster carers, approved for children aged 3 – 10, we will provide up to £500.00 per no of placements approved for to cover the purchase of the following:

  • Bed;
  • Wardrobe;
  • Chest of drawers;
  • Car seat (if appropriate);
  • Stair gate (if appropriate);
  • Bedding.

For newly approved foster carers, approved for children aged 11 and older we will also provide up to £500.00 per no of placements approved for to cover the purchase of the following:

  • Bed;
  • Wardrobe;
  • Chest of drawers;
  • Desk;
  • Bedding.

  • Foster carers, prior to approval, will be expected to provide a list of what equipment they need together with a breakdown of the cost per item. This should be written on a requisition form this can be obtained from the fostering team. Receipts must be passed to the Fostering Team Manager for auditing purposes;
  • The fostering service will be responsible for providing new cot mattresses as required, bearing in mind the recommendations that a new mattress should be provided for each new baby;
  • When a carer’s approval is changed either to extend the age range or to increase the numbers they should discuss with their supervising social worker what (if any) extra equipment they need. This should be itemised and costed with a breakdown presented to the fostering Team Manager for approval;
  • Due to the changes in the law around car seats the Fostering team will pay for all car seats deemed necessary for children in care. Carers will be expected to keep these for use with other placements;
  • The fostering team may further pay for any new buggies, cot mattresses, baby equipment and any other equipment that is deemed necessary for placements. This will be at the discretion of the Fostering Team Manager.

Replacement Costs

  • If equipment needs to be replaced due to accidents or deliberate damage by a foster child the cost will normally be met by the Borough or its insurers following an assessment by the Supervising Social Worker;
  • For normal wear and tear the Fostering Network advises that replacement should be met by the foster carer. If, however, there is excessive wear and tear due to particular circumstances, this cost may be met by the Fostering Service e.g. a large number of short term placements.

What Comes out of the Fostering Allowance?

These are guidelines only and carers can use their discretion on whether it is appropriate to give/spend these amounts weekly or whether it needs to be put aside into a savings account.  This can then be used for particular items needed, e.g. particular make trainers.

Pocket Money

  • The pocket money allowance is provided to children and young people for their general and personal needs. Foster carers with young children should use the pocket money allowance to cover the costs of activities, comics, sweets etc;
  • It is acceptable for foster carers, akin to family life, to give children and young people incentive payments in certain circumstances.
Pocket Money – guidelines
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+ £25.00 (plus money for clothing allowance)

Clothing

  • It is expected that in order to encourage young people to develop budgeting skills that they should be given more responsibility for spending some or all of their clothing allowance as appropriate to their age and development. Obviously their basic needs must be met, e.g. underwear, shoes, school uniform, but once these things are purchased the young person should be allowed/encouraged to purchase their own clothes. It is expected that carers should monitor this by seeing receipts or at least verifying that clothes have been bought;
  • The use of the allowance will differ between individuals and should be set out in the child’s/young person’s placement plan and be agreed by the foster carer/s, supervising social worker and the child’s/young person’s social worker and leaving care personal adviser. As a general rule, although this does vary according to age, £20 per week should be put aside for clothing;
  • Following discussion with the Supervising Social Worker and child/young person’s worker, if it is assessed that the child/young person has sufficient clothing, the allowance should be placed in a savings account for future needs. This should also be discussed with the child/young person depending on age and understanding;
  • This is required for audit purposes and to ensure that children and young people have received their full entitlement for each financial year and particularly when they move between placements (foster carers should retain receipts for their records);
  • Foster Carer/s of young people aged sixteen and over should ensure that the young person has sufficient suitable clothing for formal/interview situations, education/training/employment opportunities and for their future move to independent living.

School Photographs/Materials

  • The fostering allowance provides for the purchase of an annual set of standard school photographs (up to £15.00). If it is assessed by the foster carer/s, supervising social worker and social worker that supplementary photographs are required a ‘one off’ payment may be made by the fostering service;
  • Standard materials that are required for young people’s school attendance and activities are provided for within the fostering allowance. If specific major items are required foster carers should contact their supervising social worker regarding payments for ‘one off’ educational situations. These will be made at the discretion of the Fostering Team Manager and will be bases on a case by case basis.

Mobile Phones

  • If a child/young person has a mobile phone it is expected that the foster carer will provide £10.00 per week to top up their allowance. To come out of fostering allowance.

School Prom

  • An additional allowance may be claimed up to a maximum of £100.00 for any young person in Year 11 or above, to attend a Prom. This money should be claimed through the Supervising Social Worker.

Toiletries

  • In general it is expected that children would use toiletries provided by carers for general use. It is envisaged, however, that within reason as children get older, and carers should provide them with toiletries of their choice. Again in order to encourage young people to budget as they get older, an allowance should be given to the young person.

Contact

  • When a child has contact with their parents it is not expected that carers should fund any activities that they do. Carers are, however, expected to provide a snack and drink for the child only, if required;
  • If the contact is between siblings it is expected that carers fund their child’s activity so that contact can be more informal.

Luggage/Suitcases

  • The fostering allowance provides for the purchase of two items of luggage for children and young people. All young people moving to independence or between placements must have appropriate personal luggage;
  • It is not acceptable for young people’s belongings to be moved in plastic/rubbish bags in any circumstances.

Respite

Respite breaks provide important support for complex placements. Respite breaks are offered:

  • Where the care plan has established the need. Details of the plans and arrangements should be recorded in the care plan and review. Consideration needs to be given to the impact of other children in placement. The impact on the household needs to be monitored;
  • In crisis situations where the carer, social worker and supervising worker agree that the respite break meets the child's and family's needs;
  • Respite care is different from Foster Carers annual leave and should not be used to fulfil holiday requests for carers.

Respite Care: Carers who offer less than a full time placement (e.g. weekend care only) will be paid pro-rata. In exceptional circumstances the placement plan may recommend that a place be kept available full-time (e.g. children at residential schools requiring regular weekend and / or holiday care) and paid as such.

If a child goes into respite with another approved carer, the main carer will continue to receive the payment for skills based on their approval category for a maximum of seven days.  If the respite continues for over seven days the Fostering Allowance and Fostering Fees will cease to be paid to the main carer and payments will only re-commence once the child(ren) have returned to the main placement.

Respite carers will receive a payment for skills based on their approval category and the allowance for the child, both pro rata.

If the main foster carers are able to go on holiday, using the annual leave payments, without the children in placement, the Fostering Allowance will cease immediately and be re-instated on the return of the child(ren) to their care. During this time they will be paid the annual leave payments. If carers go on holiday with the children in placement, payments will continue as normal, and if they are unable to take up the annual leave they will be paid this amount as laid out under the Annual Leave arrangements.

Level 4 carers providing respite to specialist children will receive the relevant payment based on their Level Four approval status.

Level Fours carers will not provide respite for children placed with Level 1, 2 & 3 carers. As this is a skills based scheme a carer will be paid their Skills Level rate for respite regardless of the Skills Level of the carer they have come from. If they provide regular respite for children who come from higher Skills Level carers this can be used in Annual Review to evidence a move up in the Levels.

From time to time it may be appropriate (subject to the usual checks and agreement of the children’s social work team and Fostering Service) for a child to be looked after temporarily by a member of the carers' extended family or friend. It can only be arranged where the foster child already knows the relative or friend. Such an arrangement may be the best way to provide continuity of care for the child.

Such an arrangement would be made either:

  1. As part of an agreed respite care plan for the child; or
  2. To cover an unforeseen emergency (e.g. illness).

In these circumstances the relative will receive the fostering allowance. The payment of allowances will be adjusted to the main carer after four days.

In all other circumstances any care arranged is the responsibility of the foster carer to pay directly.

Where a child is out of school during term time and requires care during the day, an allowance will be paid to the foster carers if they are providing day care. Part payment will be made at a half-day rate for any child out of school part of the day.

The above rate will also be made if the child needs nursing for more than 1 week. Payments will start from the date the child started to receive nursing at home.

Where day care has to be provided by another foster carer (e.g. child excluded from school after placement and the main carer is working) payment will be made during term time at the hourly day care rate below. Reasonable transport costs of the carer providing day care will be reimbursed. Hourly day care rate (per child per hour) £5.00.

Note: This allowance is not applicable for children above statutory school-leaving age or during school holidays. Inset days are treated as school holidays.

Transport

  • Carers receive an allowance for each young person for transport costs for up to 100 miles per week. This is within the fostering base allowance. Any mileage arising from fostering activities will come out of the fostering allowance. This will include all mileage in relation to a child’s social/ leisure activities, attendance at children in care council/ fostering events, days out as a fostering family and general mileage arising as part of the fostering role. If in certain circumstances, where an activity requires the foster carer to undertake an exceptional amount of mileage, additional mileage payments will be paid at the rate of 40p per mile;
  • Any mileage arising from fostering activities, including attendance at support groups and training, will come out of the fostering base allowance;
  • Foster carers will be reimbursed for all of the mileage accrued when transporting children to education, training, contact (where it’s safe to do so) and health appointments. It is expected that Foster carers should transport children & young people to all of the above;
  • Where appropriate, and depending on an assessment of need that takes account of age and maturity, young people should be encouraged to use local public transport. Bus/train tickets must come out of fostering allowance up the value of £30 per week;
  • The aim of encouraging the use of a bus pass is to assist with education, training and employment opportunities, family and social contact, leisure and cultural needs, avoiding social isolation and encouraging the development of independence skills. For young people placed outside of the Swindon area a bus pass relevant to his/her locality should be provided;
  • There is a general expectation that Foster Carers will provide children in their care with transport as and when required. It would not be normal for a birth child to be transported by taxi to school etc. so the same standard should apply to children looked after. Feedback from children in the care of Swindon Borough Council clearly states that they do not wish to be transported by taxi as this makes them feel unwanted and singled out from their peers;
  • There will be occasions where the use of taxi transport is unavoidable. However this is to be seen as the rare exception rather than as a ‘right’;
  • Mileage claims should be completed on a monthly basis.

Emergency Clothing Allowance

This is available when a child/young person first enters foster care and does not have adequate clothing. While it is not easy to identify what adequate is, the following can be used as a guide:

  • Babies: 9 outfits (baby grow, pyjamas etc.), 6 vests, 1 outdoor suit, 7 sets of underwear & socks;
  • Pre-school children: 2 sets of nightwear & dressing gown & slippers, Footwear – shoes, trainers, Wellington boots, Coat, 4 sets of everyday clothes;
  • School age children: As pre-school children, and school uniform (as identified by school) or 2 sets of school clothes.

Where a child coming into care does not have at least the above clothing requirements, initial clothing grant will be provided up to an age related maximum. The allowance is as follows:

0 - 4 £200.00
5 -10 £220.00
11-15 £260.00
16-17 £330.00

School Uniform

This allowance can be claimed when a child/young person either starts a new school or changes school. The cost of the uniform can be claimed up to a maximum amount (see below). It is envisaged that the full allowance will not be claimed for primary school children as their uniform can be purchased at a relatively small cost. In exceptional circumstances if the secondary school uniform costs in excess of this amount, consideration may be given to making an additional payment. This will need to be agreed prior to payment.

  • On starting or changing primary school, £130.00;
  • On starting secondary school, £300.00;
  • On changing secondary school, £250.00;
  • Starting work/college allowance, £300.00.

This allowance can be claimed to enable a young person to buy suitable clothing for work/college, either at the age of 16 or 18. An allowance may also be claimed to cover the cost of special clothing or equipment required for work experience

Holiday Allowance

The holiday allowance of £290.00 to £500.00 (depending on age) per child is provided for a major holiday of at least five days once per year. All carers regardless of level will receive a holiday payment, equivalent to 2 weeks fostering allowance for each child placed, paid routinely in July for the beginning of the summer holidays for each child in placement

0 - 4 £290.00
5 -10 £320.00
11-15 £472.00
16-17 £500.00

Carers may request their Supervising Social Worker to arrange an earlier payment if they wish to take an earlier holiday. If this payment, together with 2/3rds of the fostering allowance, does not cover the cost (e.g. holidays abroad) additional payment would be considered where the holiday promotes the welfare of the child. This must be approved by the Fostering Team Manager and Head of Service.

The additional payment will be up to a maximum of £175.00 per week for two weeks (£350.00 total). Carers should not book a holiday until funding has been agreed.

The purpose of family based care is to give the child a full experience of family life. It offers the child an opportunity to feel valued and fully participate in the life of the foster family, including family holidays. In making arrangements for family holidays please consider:

  • The need for consistency of care for the foster child/young person;
  • The view of the young person about accompanying the family;
  • The needs of the carers and their family;
  • The child’s education. Foster carers must not take a child out of school during term time.

The exceptions where it might not be possible for carers to take a child on holiday could be: -

  • Emergency placements where holiday arrangements have already been made;
  • Where the care plan states the family needs a break apart from the child (this would also be in the placement plan or agreed at a child care review);
  • Where the child/young person wishes to take their holiday separately.

Holiday plans should be included in the placement plan and reviewed if necessary. Child/Young Person should not be taken out of school for family holidays

Birthday Allowance

One additional weeks allowance is paid in respect of a child’s birthday which is provided to purchase a gift or gifts and to provide a contribution towards the cost of celebrations. This will be paid for the last time on the young person’s 18th birthday.

If the child moves from the placement once the allowance has been paid, the allowance should be returned to the Fostering Team and not passed to the new carer.

0 - 4 £145.00
5 -10 £265.00
11-15 £236.00
16-17 £250.00

Festival Allowance

One additional weeks allowance is paid in respect for the Christmas/Festival which is provided to purchase a gift or gifts and to provide a contribution towards the cost of celebrations. This will only be paid up until the young person’s 18th birthday.

If the child moves from the placement once the allowance has been paid, the allowance should be returned to the Fostering Team and not passed to the new carer.

Age Range  
0 - 4 £145.00
5 -10 £165.00
11-15 £236.00
16-17 £250.00

Computers

Children and young people should have access to a computer whilst living in foster care to assist with education, learning and social activities. The use of the computer should be supervised closely. The computer should not be in the child’s bedroom.

School holidays and trips

Carers are expected to pay for any school trips up to £30.00 per term from the allowance. Costs over and above this may be claimed on exceptional expenditure via the Supervising Social Worker.

For longer trips/holidays a discussion needs to take place between the Supervising Social Worker and the child’s social worker to decide on the appropriateness of the trip. If it’s felt to be in the child’s best interests, in the first instance the school should be approached to provide funding from the pupil premium or sharing the cost. Carers and young people may also be asked to contribute. Any payment needs to be agreed by the Team Manager for approval.

Children’s Services Social Work Teams will purchase a passport and birth certificate for all children and young people. This will provide two forms of identification as well as a travel document. Both of these items can also assist young people with opening bank/savings accounts and provide identification when young people are moving towards independence.

Activities

The foster care allowance includes the additional costs foster carers incur over and above looking after children in their own homes. Carers are expected to pay for up to two activities a week.

As the additional costs of fostering are already being met, it is only in exceptional cases that additional allowances may be paid.

If the child is in receipt of DLA it may be appropriate to use this for additional activities. It should only be used in agreement with your Supervising Social Worker and child’s social worker who should record this in supervision. A full record of DLA expenditure with receipts/evidence is required to ensure that this expenditure is subject to audit and scrutiny.

Examples include:

  1. Where the special needs of the child cannot be met by the fostering allowance, e.g. special diet, special activities, extra hygiene, extra laundry, etc. Disability Living Allowance (or Personal Independent Payment (PIP) if 16 or over) should be considered in the first instance;
  2. It is important in promoting the development of, or to establish the self-esteem of, a vulnerable child that an expensive item be purchased now rather than saved up for;
  3. If equipment for an activity is very expensive, e.g. sports equipment or musical instrument, consideration will be given to paying for this, assuming the young person has shown a commitment to the activity over a number of weeks;
  4. If carers need additional financial support to enable them to meet the needs of more complex children or larger sibling groups. This can be considered as part of a support plan, e.g. recommendation from a placement support meeting;
  5. Carers having to stay in hospital with a sick child could claim subsistence;
  6. Where additional funding is needed to meet needs related to a child’s ethnicity e.g. hair care and skin care.

Healthcare

Glasses/contact lenses – the foster care allowance covers the first £50.00 per annum of purchasing or replacing glasses/contact lenses in each financial year. Expenditure in excess of this may be reclaimed.

Exceptional Expenditure

Exceptional expenditure must be discussed and agreed with Fostering Team Manager prior to making the request. Supervising Social Workers should itemise the expenditure fully on giving the criteria for the expenditure. All exceptional expenditure must be authorised by the Fostering Team Manager.

Overpayments

As carers are paid two weeks in arrears and two weeks in advance; if a placement ends in an unplanned way overpayments are sometimes made. Where an overpayment occurs, this will be deducted from the next placement payment, provided it falls within the same payment period.

If there are insufficient new payments to deduct the overpayment from, foster carers and the Assistant Team Managers will be informed of the overpayment by Business Support staff. If a foster carer receives a payment for a child, which they believe to be an overpayment, they should notify their supervising social worker immediately. Supervising social workers will take corrective actions on the system and discuss with Business Support the correct amount to be repaid.

It is an offence to spend money that you are not legally entitled to.

Frequency of payments

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

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.

‘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.


9. 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.

End