Glasgow foster carers hit by cost of living crisis demand an end to 10-year child allowance freeze

Carers are urging the council to increase the child allowance and ‘give every child the start they deserve’

Foster carers are set to demonstrate against Glasgow City Council this week, after the council leader cancelled a meeting to discuss the 10-year freeze on child allowances.

Carers in the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) trade union say the allowance provided by the council does not cover their costs, while the local authority spends more than twice as much per child on children in privatised foster care.

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At a glance: the key points

  • Foster carers in Glasgow have been campaigning for months to secure a better deal for carers and end to a 10-year pay freeze, particularly in light of the current cost of living crisis
  • A demonstration will take place this Friday (11 February) ahead of the city’s 2022 budget announcement on 17 February
  • Foster carers say that increasing the child allowance would lessen pressure on public services, boost the local economy and give every child the start they deserve
  • According to an Freedom of Information request submitted to Glasgow City Council, the authority spends 2.4x more per child on those placed with privatised foster agencies than on those in local-authority homes, resulting in ‘poverty pay’ which local authority foster carers say is forcing many to give up the role
  • The council spends almost half its foster care budget on private providers, despite these accounting for only a quarter of the total children under its care
  • The union and its workers are calling on the council to invest more in local-authority foster care, which they say would “lessen pressure on public services, boost the local economy and give every child the start they deserve”
  • SNP leader of Glasgow council Susan Aitken pulled out of a meeting with the carers on 27 January after the IWGB workers held a local leafleting session, according to the union
  • Glasgow council has said it pays higher than the average rate for local authorities in Scotland, but is currently engaging with the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) over a national agreement

What’s been said?

Jacqueline McShane, a Foster Care worker in Glasgow, said: “Everything is going up at the moment: food, fuel, heating but we haven’t seen our income change in 10 years.

“There was a time when we could provide extra-curricular activities for foster children who have missed out on these important life opportunities. Now the child allowance fails to cover even the basic costs. I’m having to draw on my husband’s retirement savings just to make ends meet.

“This just isn’t sustainable. If we don’t see a rise in our incomes, many of us will be forced to move to private agencies which cost the council far more.”

Kenny Millard, Chair of the IWGB Foster Care Workers Union, said: “There is a crisis in foster care. We are losing experienced carers who are being driven out of the system and replaced by expensive privatised agencies that cost the council more than twice as much per placement.

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“We’ve seen other local authorities take steps to combat the crisis but Glasgow City Council won’t even meet with us.

“If the council sits down with the IWGB, we are confident that we can find a mutually-beneficial solution that works for foster carers, the children in our care, and the local Glasgow economy.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “Glasgow has been part of discussions with the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities around a national decision on fostering fees and allowances but remains one of the local authorities paying higher than the national average for a number of years. Our understanding is however that a national position will be clarified for April 2022.

“Our officers have also written to this organisation to clarify the position for Glasgow in detail and senior officers are meeting with union representatives shortly.

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“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.”

Alex Marshall, President of IWGB, said: “It’s disgraceful to see Glasgow City Council shirking responsibility for the child allowances and running away from meetings with foster care workers.

“Foster carers do invaluable work in our communities but, with the rising cost of living, these cuts are forcing many carers into poverty. If the freeze continues, it will have a lifelong impact on these children and the communities in which they live.

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“The IWGB will continue to fight for the rights of foster carers across the UK who have been punished by a system that forces cuts on experienced carers while handing out millions to extortionate private agencies.”

Glasgow City Council has been approached for comment.

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