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FosterTalk offers independent, impartial advice and support to foster carers across the UK. Our aim is to make a real difference to the lives of foster carers and the children they care for.

This section of our website contains some of the frequently asked questions about fostering or being a foster carer, and we hope you will find this helpful. Other sections of our website will have more information on the various topics, so please do have a good look round.

Remember, if you are not already a FosterTalk member, you can join for as little as £44 per year and receive a wide range of membership benefits including:

Interested in joining FosterTalk? Find out more about becoming a member here

Frequently asked questions

All Fostering Service Providers are expected to ensure that foster carers are trained in the skills required to provide high quality care and meet the needs of each child or young person placed in their care. As a foster carer, you are expected to attend all relevant training. This will include:

  • Pre-approval training.
  • Induction training – working in partnership with your fostering provider.
  • Ongoing core training – Safe Caring, communicating with children, coping with allegations, etc.

You should also be provided with the opportunity to attend:

  • Ongoing specialist training – Men who Foster. Working with Challenging Behaviour.
  • Professional vocational training – NVQ level 3.

If there are two adults in the household approved as foster carers you are both expected to complete the relevant training. Fostering Service Providers will usually organise training to facilitate your attendance so this may take place in the evening or at weekends.

You will also be expected to complete the Training Support and Development Standards (TSD) workbook within 12 months of approval. For more information see below.

In England, all foster carers are required to complete the Training Support and Development Standards within 12 months of becoming approved as a foster carer. The Training, Support and Development (TSD) standards form part of a foster carer’s induction into their role. They provide a national minimum benchmark that sets out what foster carers should know, understand and be able to do within the first 12 months after being approved.

There are TSD workbooks for foster carers, short breaks carers and family and friends carers(kinship carers) If you’re a foster carer or about to start the TSD standards, and you’d like help completing the workbook, talk to your supervising social worker who will be able to support and guide you.

More information on the Training Support and Development Standards can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-for-foster-carers

As family and friends (kinship) carers, you may often take care of children at short notice and in difficult circumstances, therefore the deadline for them to complete the standards has been extended. Those who are new to fostering a family member or a friend’s child have up to 18 months to complete the standards. A shorter version of the TSD standards workbook is available to use with family and friends (kinship) carers. This may also be used with Support Carers.

The workbooks can be found on this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-for-foster-carers

The Care Council for Wales has published a workbook to help support foster carers become effective foster carers in Wales and ensure they have the correct set of knowledge and skills to meet their role in supporting children and young people.

This guide explains how to use the Induction Framework and how to meet each of the required seven outcomes. Each section provides a summary of the outcome, the skills you need to meet the outcome, guidance to help you think how to apply this knowledge, sample questions and activities, and how to show that you have met the outcome. The outcomes are: principles and values, your role in the children’s workforce, health, safety and security; listening and communication; development and behaviour; rights of children and young people; keeping children safe from harm and developing yourself and your skills. The Induction Framework also links with National Occupational Standards, other quality standards and codes of practice relevant to work with all children and young people.

The induction framework for foster carers’ workbook can be found here: https://socialcare.wales/cms_assets/file-uploads/Induction-Framework-for-Foster-Carers.pdf

When a child is placed in foster care, the cost of caring for them is paid to the foster carer in the form of a fostering allowance. Many fostering services also pay a fee on top of this allowance, in recognition of the work they do in caring for these children. This additional payment is classed as the “reward” element of the fee.

There is currently no recommended amount for the reward element, and each fostering service will set this separately.

Allowances are set at local level and vary widely across the UK, and according to the age and needs of a child, but in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, foster carers should receive at least the national minimum rates.

There is currently no recommended minimum fostering allowance in Scotland.

Please note: these allowances are not mandatory and fostering services are not required by law to pay these rates.

The national minimum allowance has been calculated on the basis of the minimum amount that any foster carer needs to meet the cost of caring for a foster child. Recommended rates, excluding rewards, are as follows:

Minimum weekly allowance – 2019 to 2020 weekly rates (England only)

Weekly rates Babies Pre-primary Primary 11 to 15 16 to 17
London £149 £152 £171 £193 £226
South East £143 £147 £163 £185 £218
Rest of England £129 £132 £146 £167 £194

The rates are updated every April.

The national minimum allowances are the basic core allowance that foster carers receive to cover the costs involved in looking after any fostered child. It is intended to set a benchmark for payment rates to all foster carers. The actual level of allowance that any foster carer will receive will depend on a number of factors, in particular the specific needs of an individual child.

These allowances should be applied to all foster carers approved by a fostering service registered in Wales who are caring for a looked after child. This includes approved foster carers who are friends or family of the child and short break or respite carers. The table below sets out the recommended allowance rates for foster placements in Wales. The rates vary according to the age of the foster child.

Recommended national minimum weekly allowance rates up rated in line with the Office for Budgetary Responsibility forecasts for growth in earnings 2019- 2020 (Wales only)

Age of child (years)  0 – 4 5 – 15 16+
Maintenance allowance for ongoing costs £181 £165 £206

In Northern Ireland, Health and Social Care Trusts pay foster care allowances as agreed annually with the Health and Social Care Board. The allowances are in line with national minimum rates in England. These standard rates of foster care allowances are known the Model Scheme.

The rates for 2019-2020 are below: (Northern Ireland only)

Age Group Per week Per 4 weeks
0 – 4 years £129.38 £517.52
5 – 10 years £142.95 £571.80
11 – 15 years £164.56 £658.24
16+ £190.61 £762.44

Additional amounts are payable for Christmas, birthdays and special events.

There is currently no national minimum allowance in Scotland. Each fostering service therefore sets its own rates.

Tax exemption There’s a fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year (less if for a shorter period) which is shared equally among any foster carers in the same household. This means you do not have to pay tax on the first £10,000 income you make from fostering.

Tax relief On top of the £10,000 exemption, you also get tax relief for every week (or part week) that a child is in your care. This means you do not have to pay tax on some of your earnings over £10,000.

Age of child Tax Relief per week
Under 11 £200 per child
Over 11 £250 per child

From September 2018, some foster carers in England and Wales may be able to benefit from free (government funded) childcare for three- and four-year-olds. Eligibility varies from England to Wales – please see below for more information.

Working parents of 3 and 4 years old in England may be entitled to up to 30 hours of childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This is an additional 15 hours of childcare to support working families and is on top of the 15 hours of universal entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds in England.

Children in foster care are already entitled to the universal 15 hours. Children in foster care who are aged 3 or 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours free childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • Where these is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

This won’t be right for every child and the government estimate that only a small number of foster parents will take up the offer. Foster parents should start discussions with their social worker to discuss an application. The local authority will be required to confirm the application from a designated person from within the local authority.

30 hours free childcare in Wales The Welsh Government is piloting a scheme to provide free early education and childcare to working parents of three- and four-year-olds for 48 weeks of the year. The scheme is being rolled out completely by 2020 and is currently available in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea and Blaenau Gwent. From September 2018 it will also be available in Torfaen and Ceridigion, with a phased introduction in Cardiff, Newport, Neath Port Talbot, Conwy and Wrexham.

Foster carers in the pilot authorities are included in the offer as long as it’s in line with their foster child’s care plan and they meet the minimum earnings criteria. Fostering allowances can be counted as proof of earnings for foster carers who wish to access the offer for their own child or their foster child.

To apply, speak to your fostering social worker.

If you are a FosterTalk member you can receive free confidential advice on tax, national insurance and benefits from our qualified tax advisors. access the member’s area.

Foster care can be a truly rewarding career with lots of benefits. It’s also a huge commitment and one that is not without problems. Because of the nature of fostering, many foster carers will face an allegation at some stage in their fostering carer.

When allegations against foster carers arise, legally, an investigation must be launched to ensure the safety of the child in question. Although this is a necessary process, it can put the accused foster carer under considerable emotional strain.

While research has shown that over 78% of allegations prove unfounded, or are not upheld, the impact of the investigation may leave foster carers unable to carry on caring for children. The continuation of the foster carer’s career can depend highly on the level of support and help they receive from their fostering service throughout this process.

At FosterTalk we believe that providing the best possible support during these difficult times can make the process clearer and more manageable for everyone involved. Our Foster Carers Independent Support Service (FISS) therefore provides all the necessary help and support for foster carers who find themselves in this situation, enabling them to feel more in control.

To talk to someone about an allegation, or to access face to face support, please call Foster Talk on 01527 836 910

In the summer of 2015, FosterTalk commissioned a research study into the impact of allegations against foster carers and their families, which was jointly funded by the Sir Halley Stewart trust and conducted by the Rees Centre at Oxford University. This study, published in July 2016, makes a number of recommendations to the Department for Education, fostering services and social workers about the way in which foster carers are supported during investigations into allegations of harm.

The key messages of the report can be viewed here. A pdf of the research in full can be found here.

The NSPCC has also published research into allegations called “Keeping Children Safe: Allegations concerning the abuse or neglect of children in Care” This was carried out by the University of York and published in June 2014. A copy can be here.

In England and Wales, a review of a foster carers’ approval must take place not more than a year after approval, and thereafter whenever the fostering service provider considers it necessary, but at intervals of not more than a year.

In Scotland, reviews must be held within 12 months of the day of approval, within three years of the previous review and also where the agency considers that a review of the foster carer’s approval is necessary or appropriate to safeguard the welfare of any child who has been placed with that carer.

The review will consider whether a foster carer’s approval should continue and if there should be any changes to their terms of approval. Fostering regulations make it clear that the first review report has to go back to panel. After that, there is no legal requirement for a review to go back to panel, although the fostering service can choose to do so.

A fostering service may also choose to review a foster carer’s approval at any time, for example if there has been a change of circumstances. An allegation or complaint would generally trigger a review, as would a serious health issue or relationship breakdown.

When approved, foster carers will be given terms of approval which set out the number of children, their gender, age range and any other information about the type of foster care that they are approved to provide. The annual review will consider whether these are still appropriate and whether the fostering or service or foster carer feels that these need to change.

Any change of approval will need to be referred back to the fostering panel and agency decision maker for agreement. If the foster carer disagrees with the recommendation of the fostering panel with regard to their terms of approval they have the right to make representation within 28 days either back to Panel or to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) in England and Wales, or the another fostering panel in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Please see section on IRM below.

In the event of complaints, allegations or standards of care concerns, a fostering service might want to terminate a foster carer’s approval following an investigation and review. A foster carer should see any report before it goes to panel and has the right to write their own response and/or to be present, with a supporter, at the panel meeting.

Following a recommendation by panel, the agency decision maker at the fostering service will write to the foster carer to advise them of their intended decision. The foster carer then has 28 days in which to make a representation and inform the fostering service of their request to either go back to fostering panel for a review of their recommendation, or in England and Wales, for the matter to be referred to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). See section on IRM below.

In Northern Ireland, foster carers who are unhappy with the outcome of a fostering panel can appeal, and their case will be heard by an independent panel. In Scotland, foster carers may request a review of a decision not to approve them as a foster carer, to terminate their approval or to vary the terms of their approval within 28 days of the date of notification of the decision.

Where the agency receives a request for a review of the decision, they must refer the case to a differently constituted fostering panel for a recommendation.

A foster carer may, at any point give written notice that they wish to resign from the role. As such, their approval is automatically terminated 28 days after receipt of the notice by the fostering service (regulation 28(13)).

The decision maker, alongside the fostering service, does not have the power to decline a resignation. Instead, they can only offer advice; informing the carer that their resignation will automatically take effect after 28 days – regardless of whether the notice is then withdrawn.

We strongly advise you to speak to one of our fostering advisors before resigning if you are in the process of having an allegation investigated as the process will continue but you will not have any right to participate once you have resigned.

Our Foster Carers Independent Support Service (FISS) can offer face to face support during the allegations process, attend reviews and fostering panel with a foster carer and support them at the IRM. For more information about face to face support contact us on 01527 836 910

FosterTalk members also have access to our fostering advisors, legal advice and insurance, counselling services for support about reviews, terminations of approval or other issues. Contact us on 01527 836 910 or click here to go to the Members Area

The Independent Review Mechanism for Fostering and Adoption (IRM) provides independent panels that review decisions made by adoption and fostering providers. The IRM does not have the power to overturn the agency’s decision but can ask for it to be reconsidered and make recommendations about good practice.

The IRM England is run by Coram Children’s Legal Centre on behalf of the Department for Education and in Wales by Children in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.

There is no IRM in Scotland or Northern Ireland, where different Regulations apply.

For further information on the IRM for England click https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/attending-an-irm-panel-information-sheets

For further information on the IRM for Wales please visit http://irm.cymru/

If the foster carer disagrees with the decision of the Agency Decision Maker, they have the right to make representations within 28 days, either to the original fostering panel or to the Independent Review Mechanism (the IRM).

Once the foster carer has decided which route they wish to take, they should inform the Agency Decision Maker in writing within 28 calendar days of the date of the letter from the Agency Decision Maker, and contact the IRM to ask for their case to be considered.

If the application is referred to the IRM, the fostering service must, within 10 working days of notification of this, supply the IRM with the documentation submitted to the fostering panel and any relevant information received subsequently, along with copies of the notices of determination (regulation 29).

You will be invited to attend the IRM meeting and will have the opportunity to make a written and verbal contribution, along with representatives of your fostering service.

The IRM will then make a recommendation and provide a copy of the panel minutes to you and to the fostering service. The decision maker must take account of the recommendation of the IRM, as well as that of the original fostering panel, in reaching a decision about your suitability to foster.

For further information on the IRM for England click https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/attending-an-irm-panel-information-sheets

For further information on the IRM for Wales please visit http://irm.cymru/

Delegated authority is all about giving children in care as normal lives as possible, with the same opportunity as other children, and with foster carers being able to make every day decisions without having to ask a social worker for their consent. Every local authority in England and Wales is required to have a published policy setting out its approach to delegation of authority in respect of looked after children in foster care. Volumes 2 and 4 of the Children Act 1989 statutory guidance confirm that, except where there are factors that dictate the contrary, foster carers should be given delegated authority to make day-to-day decisions about health, education, leisure, etc. Northern Ireland has similar provisions for foster carers.

Delegated authority is not a term used in Scottish law. In Scotland, those caring for children, who are not their own, have powers of decision making in their own right and the Scottish Government has issued guidance to help them with this.

Overnight Stays, school trips and holidays:

In making decisions whether or not to allow a looked after child to stay overnight with a friend, go on holiday with a friend’s family, or go on a school trip, foster carers and responsible authorities should consider the following:

  • Are there any restrictions in the child’s care plan or placement plan.
  • Are they any court orders prohibiting or restricting overnight stays or holidays.
  • Are they any factors in the child’s background, past experience or behaviour that preclude the trip or holiday.
  • Are there any grounds for concern that the child might be at risk in the household concerned or from activities proposed.
  • What is the age and understanding of the child about the trip.
  • What are the reasons for the stay/trip.
  • How long is it for.

Looked after children should always be told of the criteria that will be used to make decisions, and once these factors have been considered and weighed, they should be told of the reasons for the decision being made. Needless to say, contact details for where the child will be staying and information about all activities to be undertaken should be provided to the foster carers, in the same way as for your birth child.

Two further points worth mentioning are that in England and Wales

  • There is no statutory duty to obtain DBS (police) checks in relation to a private household where a child may stay overnight or visit, or who the child may accompany on holiday or a school trip.
  • There is no requirement for the adults in the household that the child visits or accompanies on holiday to be approved as a foster carer, as the child remains formally placed with their usual foster carers.

England

Guidance on delegated authority in England (2014, incorporated into updated statutory guidance in June 2015):

Wales:

Guidance on delegated authority in Wales (2011):

Scotland

Guidance on decision making in Scotland (2015):

Northern Ireland

Guidance on delegated authority in Northern Ireland (2010):

The usual fostering limit

In England, Schedule 7 of the Children Act 1989 limits the number of children who may be fostered by a foster carer. The “usual fostering limit” is set at 3. Similar provisions apply in Scotland (Looked after Children Regulations 2009, Reg Sch 3) Northern Ireland (The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, and Wales.

This means that no one may foster more than 3 children unless:

  • The foster children are all siblings in relation to each other.
  • Exemptions can only be granted by the local authority within whose area the foster carer lives and only in relation to specific placements (in which case they must set out the terms as detailed below), and.
  • The foster carer’s terms of approval allow it (any terms of approval must be compatible with the number of children the foster carer is caring for even if an exemption to the usual fostering limit has been granted, unless the placement is an emergency and for less than 6 days).
  • A local authority cannot grant an exemption to the usual fostering limit to a foster carer living outside of its area.

In considering whether to grant an exemption to the usual fostering limit, a local authority must have regard to:

  • The number of children the person proposes to foster.
  • The arrangements which the person proposes for the care and accommodation of the fostered children.
  • The intended and likely relationship between the person and the fostered children, and.
  • Whether the welfare of the fostered children (and of any other children who are, or will be living, in the accommodation) will be safeguarded or promoted.

Where a local authority exempts a person from the usual fostering limit, it must notify the foster carer in writing:

  • That s/he is exempted;
  • Of the children, described by name, whom s/he may foster; and
  • Of any condition(s) to which the exemption is subject to.

For further information on exemptions to the usual fostering limit visit the FosterTalk Member’s area here or call 01527 836 910 and speak to one of our fostering advisors.

Every child or young person in foster care has the right to advocacy from someone independent to help them express their views or make a complaint. Foster Carers speaking to our fostering advisors are often worried that they will get into trouble if they help to find an advocate for a young person in their care. This is not the case, and the following information is provided to help you to identify the best source of support for your foster child.

Each child or young person in foster care has an allocated social worker and an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) who is responsible for chairing reviews of their care plans at regular intervals. The IRO is responsible for ensuring that the child or young person’s views are taken into account at reviews and in every decision made about them. The IRO is also responsible for providing information about advocacy services that the young person can contact if they wish to do so.

Local Authorities are expected to publicise their arrangements for advocacy services in their area and to provide information about children’s rights to every child or young person they look after. Some local authorities provide Children’s Rights services “in house” and some contract with other organisations to provide these for them.

In addition the government has provided funding to support two independent children’s rights organisations, to provide advocacy and advice for looked-after children and care leavers.  They are:

National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) https://www.nyas.net/services/advocacy/

Coram Voice https://coramvoice.org.uk/

Each UK region also has a Children’s Commissioner who will take up issues on behalf of children and young people.

England: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/

Wales: https://www.childcomwales.org.uk/

Scotland: https://www.cypcs.org.uk/

Northern Ireland: https://www.niccy.org/

Our fostering advisors can also  give you help and support in identifying an advocate for your foster child. Call us on 01527 836 910

When a young person reaches the age of 18, any Care Order is automatically revoked, and they are no longer considered to be “looked after”. However, foster carers play an important part in ensuring that young people are prepared for the move to independence or by continuing to support them after the age of 18 through supported lodgings and other schemes, such as Shared Lives and Staying Put.

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