‘Isolated’ Glasgow foster carers say allowance rise is ‘good start’

A foster carer who had to dip into retirement savings during a 10-year allowance freeze has said a proposed rise is a “good start” but more help is needed.
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Last week, Glasgow City Council set a “clear expectation” that the city’s foster carers should get a 10% increase to their child allowance from April.

It followed a campaign, led by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which called for “fairness for foster carers” as the child allowance does not cover the full cost of raising a child.

Financial pressure

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Jacqueline McShane (56) has been looking after Glasgow children for around a decade.

Foster carers have been seeking an allowance rise for years.Foster carers have been seeking an allowance rise for years.
Foster carers have been seeking an allowance rise for years.

She started as she “wanted to give children a nice stable home”, but revealed more and more carers are choosing to resign due to financial pressures.

Life as a foster carer can be isolating, she said, and their voices weren’t heard until the IWGB took up their case. The union has said, after inflation, the freeze equated to an almost 24% cut in the foster child allowance.

Jacqueline, who lives in Cumbernauld, is “generally a short-term carer” but has been looking after one child for five years now. “You look after them for as long as they need you,” she said.

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She believes the 10% rise would take “us nearer where we should be” and is “a foot in the door” for foster carers.

“It’s not as much as we were hoping but it’s a really good start. We’ve been using our own money to keep up to date with bills.

“We’ve been completely ignored for the last ten years. My husband is a retired firefighter and we’ve needed to dip into his retirement savings.

“Every other carer I speak to is either already resigning or planning to resign.”

Allowance rise

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All Glasgow City Council foster carers receive a weekly £150 fee per child, plus the allowance for each child, which varies depending on age.

Jacqueline said the fee and allowance are in place because becoming a full-time carer requires giving up your job. She highlighted how the £150 fee, for 24/7 care, works out at 89 pence per hour.

If you categorise the role as a 40 hour per week job, that is £3.75 per hour, she said, adding the union’s next campaign will focus on the carers’ fee.

The council has asked the city’s Integration Joint Board, responsible for health and social care services, to increase the allowance by 10% from April. Cllr Jon Molyneux, from Glasgow’s Green group, said this move set a “clear expectation” that “valued” foster carers deserve a rise.

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Budget papers stated the council “does not have the power to compel the IJB to undertake work” but it “values the contribution of Glasgow’s foster and kinship carers and asks the HSCP to increase their allowances”.

It has also requested “annual inflation-based increases” are implemented and “to recognise foster carers’ legal right to trade union representation”. Councillors want the issue to be considered before the end of March.

IWGB support

Jacqueline praised the IWGB for “getting us together” and is pleased the council has recommended union recognition. She believes there has been a reliance on the “goodwill” of foster carers in Scotland.

“It’s a very isolated job, when you’re a foster carer you don’t know any other carers. Up until now every carer has been complaining to their own social worker.

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“It’s a fantastic job to do. I feel privileged to have all these children in my care, but we need to be appreciated and valued.”

The IWGB said it is the first time a council has recognised foster carers’ right to collectively organise and described the campaign as a “landmark win”.

A union spokesman said: “This commitment is a significant step forward in tackling the foster care crisis and creating the foster care system Glasgow deserves.

“This win is a direct result of foster carers coming together and taking collective action through the IWGB. However, there is still some way to go before these expectations are turned into reality.

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“We will continue to fight until our demands are met, including compassionate leave and the introduction of a fairer respite system.”

The IWGB also revealed Glasgow spends nearly half of its foster care budget on privatised foster care agencies, which make up only a quarter of total children in the council’s care.

Jacqueline said: “We feel that they should be investing that money in foster carers. There’s some really good foster carers in Glasgow and they’re talking about leaving the system.”

Council response

Before the budget meeting last Thursday, a council spokeswoman said the council had been in talks with the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) around a “national decision on fostering fees and allowances”.

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She added Glasgow pays “higher than the national average”. “Our understanding is however that a national position will be clarified for April 2022.

“Glasgow’s integrated care arrangements continue to shift the balance, where appropriate, towards supporting children in their home environment and aligned to the recent national and Scottish Government Independent Care Review and the Promise.

“We have also commissioned a comprehensive family support strategy and doubled the funding from £2.7m to £5.4m for local family support services across the city.”

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