According to the Fostering Network, there are 55,000 foster carers in the UK alone. With over 65,000 children in foster care in the UK, it is a fundamental job within UK society. But how much does a foster carer get paid? Is it calculated by the foster child’s age or by how many years you’ve been fostering?
Read on as we clear things up about how much foster carers are paid, and the process they go through to become foster carers.
What are foster carers and what do they do?
Foster carers are people who take a child 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 the child is not able to live with their birth family – which could be down to a number of reasons. Sometimes, foster carers have children in an emergency situation, until long-term arrangements for the child are made. However, other foster carers have children long-term.
It’s required for foster carers to meet the day-to-day needs of the children in their care, whilst supporting the child’s educational, health and social wellbeing. They’ll sometimes 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 process and fulfil their potential.
Who can become a foster carer?
Like the children who need looking after, foster carers come from a variety of backgrounds, with different experiences and skills to meet the needs of children in care. Common criteria that most fostering agencies use include:
- Be at least 21 years-old
- Have a spare room for a child
- Be a full-time resident of the UK
- Have a clean criminal record
- 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 in question. You do not need formal qualifications to become a foster carer, although experience with children who have had a rough start to life is desirable.
What does it take to become an approved foster carer?
On average, it takes 4-6 months to become an approved foster carer, although some of our applications at Olive Branch Fostering are approved within 12 weeks.
The length of the process varies from carer to carer. Below are the steps approved foster carers go through to be approved:
- The council or fostering agency will do an initial, informal visit to collect information about you and members of your household. All members over 18 years-old must pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, and the person looking to become an approved foster carer also has to have a health check. This is to make sure they are fit and well enough to care for a child.
- You will attend ‘skills to foster’ sessions, along with other people applying to become foster carers, which will give you more detail on becoming a foster carer and gives you an idea of what to expect from the role.
- Your suitability for the role will be assessed by someone from the council or fostering agency. Often, they allow you to go into detail about your experiences and skills with children to assess this.
- All the information collected from you in your application will be sent to an independent fostering panel. They will go through all the information provided and will make a recommendation to the council or fostering agency if you are suitable for the role.
What are the benefits of being a foster carer?
Being a foster carer is a really rewarding role – they’re able to provide a safe and caring environment for children who need it the most. It is self-fulfilling, as most children make great progress in foster care. In addition, foster carers receive monthly pay and regular training to be enable them to best support the children in their care.
How much does a foster carer get paid?
Foster carers at Olive Branch Fostering get up to £405 per week, per child, based on experience. Most other fostering agencies and councils pay according to the age of the child placed. For example, £200 per week, per child placed between the ages from newborn to 4 years-old, and then £250 per week, per child placed between the ages of 5 years-old to 10 years-old and so on.
At Olive Branch Fostering, we take a different approach. We believe the most important factor when placing children is what’s best for them, which is why we offer a fixed payment for foster carers depending on their experience.
Our carers start on £321 a week and get a rise every year when they become more experienced. Once their fee goes up, it will never go down – which is something most other fostering agencies and councils do not offer.
Can foster carers have another job?
Foster carers are often required to reduce their hours of work or stop working altogether when they begin fostering. This is due to some children requiring full-time support. Many foster children will need a stay-at-home foster carer and for the carer to be available the majority of the time for them.
However, some foster carers do have part-time jobs, alongside their fostering work. As long as they always put their fostering role first, most councils and fostering agencies are okay with foster carers working alongside their fostering role.
Are foster carers self-employed?
What most people do not realise is that foster carers are classed as self-employed. The financial support you receive from your fostering agency or council is classed as your income, just like earnings. It will be taxed if you earn above the relevant tax and national insurance thresholds.
Most foster carers use the Qualifying Care Relief Scheme, which is specifically designed for foster carers and offers them a generous tax relief at the end of the year. You can also claim benefits whilst fostering, as fostering allowances are not taken into consideration when it comes to most benefit assessments.
Would you like to become a foster carer?
If you want to find out more about how much foster carers get paid or the various other benefits of caring for a foster child, our team is on hand to help.
Olive Branch Fostering is a leading fostering agency, helping children and foster carers across the North West and Midlands. Give our team a call on 01706 558910 and we’ll happily answer any questions you have.