According to the most recent figures, over 65,000 children are in foster care in the UK. That’s 80% of the 83,000 children in care away from home. Most foster agencies and local councils are very keen to attract more foster carers to provide a safe, secure and loving environment for these vulnerable children.
But if you are considering becoming a foster carer, what would disqualify you from becoming a foster carer? Could you still be a foster parent if you have a criminal record, for instance?
Read on as we clear things up about what would disqualify you from becoming a foster carer in the UK, and what the criteria is to become a foster carer.
What are foster carers and what do they do?
Foster carers are people who take a child, or a number of children, into their family for a period of time. It can be short or long term, without them becoming legal parents to the child. They offer the child a safe and caring environment, whilst they are not able to live with their birth family – which could be down to a number of reasons.
All foster carers need to meet the day-to-day needs of the children in their care, whilst supporting their educational, health and social well-being. Sometimes, they will have to manage difficult behaviour, keep records and work with a wider team of professionals, to enable the child in their care to make good progress and fulfil their potential.
What are the essential criteria to become a foster parent in the UK?
Common factors that most fostering agencies and local councils use, include:
- Be at least 21 years-old
- Have a spare room for a child
- Be a full-time resident of the UK
- Be able to give the time and care a child may need
Other factors, such as health, financial security and your home, might also be looked at, depending on the fostering agency or local council in question. You will not need formal qualifications to become a foster carer in the UK, although experience with children who have had a rough start to life is desirable.
Can I foster if I have a disability?
It is a requirement from a majority of fostering agencies and local councils that you have a medical check before you begin your journey as a foster parent. This is down to fostering often being a demanding role. Fostering agencies or local councils would not want you to put your own health at risk by becoming a foster carer. Agencies and councils understand that everyone is different, so all applications are usually considered on an individual basis.
As long as you’re able to meet the day-to-day needs of a child and provide a stable, loving environment for a child, whilst also not risking your own health, you should be able to become a foster carer.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you do claim Disability Living Allowance or any other benefits, you should be able to still receive these, whilst having a foster carer salary.
Can I foster if I have pets?
Having a pet should not prevent you from becoming a foster carer. Some fostering agencies sometimes see them as an asset to a foster family as they can reduce stress and anxiety, whilst improving children’s social and communication skills.
However, every animal is different and all pets will need to be assessed as part of the process of becoming of a foster carer. This will take into account the animal’s temperament and behaviour around children.
Can I foster if I have a criminal record?
Most fostering agencies and local councils will require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which will inform them of any criminal record. Currently, the law states that only offences against children or sexual offences will prevent people from becoming a foster carer in the UK.
Minor offences should not go against you, if you decide to apply to be a foster carer.
If I have a mental health problem, can I still be a foster carer?
There is no diagnosis that can automatically prevent you from becoming a foster carer in the UK. A health check is a requirement from most fostering agencies and local councils, so past and current mental health issues will come up then.
Often, it depends on the severity of the mental health issue, but fostering agencies and councils will look at:
- Medications you take to manage your mental health condition
- How long you have had the problem
- The sort of issue you are dealing with
It is vital that vulnerable children are placed into a safe, secure and loving home. That’s why people who are considering being a foster carer in the UK are encouraged to discuss this first with any fostering agency or council they apply to. They will also need to consider the impact of the fostering’s emotional side on their mental health and if they can capably manage the impact.
How much do foster carers get paid a month?
In some cases, finances are the only thing holding you back from helping a child by fostering. That’s where foster care allowances come in. At Olive Branch Fostering, we pay foster carers up to £405 per week, per child.
While most other agencies and local authorities pay based on a child’s age, we think it’s best to base pay on foster carers’ experience. Carers start on £321 a week and get a rise each year as they become more experienced.
Foster carers in the UK are classed as self-employed. However, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will treat you as not making a profit or loss and therefore, foster carers do not have to pay tax (up to a certain amount) or Class 4 National Insurance on their fostering income. Foster carers in the UK are also eligible for Qualifying Tax Relief, meaning payments of up to certain amounts are tax-free.
Find out more about fostering
If you’re interested in fostering, the team at Olive Branch Fostering would love to hear from you. We’re committed to finding passionate foster carers across the North West of England and matching them with children who they can help with a secure, nurturing environment.
Call us on 01706 558910 to arrange an informal chat with our team today.