Report of the Deputy Chief Officer – Head of Children’s Health and Wellbeing (CS/22/10) seeking approval for a proposed uplift to the fees paid to the Council’s foster carers, attached.
(a) that the proposed uplift to the fees paid to Devon County Council’s foster carers be approved, as outlined in section 3 of the Report;
(b) that an initial investment of £136,000 in 2022/23 from reserves be agreed; and
(c) that Cabinet further consider a base budget increase of £281,000 as part of the 2023/24 budget setting process.
(Councillors Whitton and Wrigley attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the Report of the Deputy Chief Officer – Head of Children’s Health and Wellbeing (CS/22/10) which sought approval for a proposed uplift to fees paid to the Council’s foster carers, circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
The Council was responsible, as a corporate parent, for children who became cared for by the local authority and had a duty to provide a sufficient number and range of foster carers to meet children’s needs. Recruiting more foster carers was a high priority in the improvement plan. Foster carers were paid an allowance to meet the needs of the child or children they cared for, an additional amount that was assessed in relation to children’s assessed needs, and also a weekly payment in relation to attendance at training and support groups.
Foster carers were required to be approved with either a local authority or independent fostering agency (IFA) in order to have children placed in their care. Whilst foster carers could choose whether they apply to foster for a local authority, or an independent fostering agency, their decision would be affected by a number of things including terms and conditions and the financial allowances paid.
Many IFAs were part of the ‘Southwest Peninsula’ multi- provider contract approach. Currently, the average weekly cost to the Council of a fostering placement with these providers was £971, reflecting the full commercial business cost for the organisation, an element of which will be foster carer allowances. Two local IFAs advertise standard allowances for their carers of £400 and £435 per week respectively. The Council’s foster carers were paid a standard weekly allowance of £329.10, which included an element for attending training and support groups (additional fees of £90, or £160, could be paid if the child had additional needs that met the criteria for a further allowance).
The report outlined proposals to provide an uplift of 1.75% for foster carers and SGO carers, in line with the public sector uplift for 2021/22, commencing 1st October 2022. Any further uplift would be considered within the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 23/24.
This proposal supported the Council’s strategic aim to transform, develop and improve children’s services.
The Cabinet noted that endorsing the proposal would support the Council’s statutory obligation to provide children in care with homes in Devon, close to families, friends, and communities. It would also support the children’s services improvement priority to increase the number of in-house foster carers, which would reduce reliance on IFAs and subsequently reduce costs.
The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, the Leader and other Cabinet Members extended their heartfelt thanks to all Foster Carers, especially those of Devon and placed on record their appreciation for all their contributions to the service.
The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and ... view the full minutes text for item 213