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Better pay to kick in for foster parents in Highlands

By Gavin Musgrove

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Increased payments for foster parents in the Highlands which will put them on a par with other carers in Scotland will begin at the start of the new year.

Highland councillors approved the substantial rise at the authority’s recent last full meeting of the year to recognise “the valuable role of foster carers in providing a home and care”.

Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes had been critical of the council’s arrangements which meant some children were being looked after hundreds of miles from home.

In her campaign, she had urged them to save millions by placing them close to home.

Kate Forbes has praised council for increasing payments to foster parents.
Kate Forbes has praised council for increasing payments to foster parents.

Councillor Andrew Jarvie had lodged a similar motion at the budget meeting in February that would have increased the payment.

At the time, the council was not ready to make it part of the budget but shortly afterwards brought it on board and conducted meetings to develop the current policy.

Cllr Jarvie feared the council’s system discouraged people from becoming foster carers because it would be a financial burden.

But from tomorrow, fosterers will get a payment per child and an increase in that fee by 20 per cent. Prior to that no financial recognition was given for the number of children being cared for.

The £500,000 investment in foster care should help increase the number of available places in the Highlands by up to 20 and reduce the burden of more expensive provision by the private sector outwith the region.

Councillor Jarvie said: “This is really good news, but this is only just the start. I uncovered that Highland Council was the lowest paying authority in the whole UK in December 2017, so it has been a long and tough campaign.

“This is a hugely welcome start to the foster service transformation, but it is only just a start.

He added: “The council knows from its own data that the 30 per cent of people who enquire about fostering don’t go further because the allowances and fees are so low... My target is still to raise the allowance up to the level recommended by the Fostering Network which is nearer double the current rates.”

Ms Forbes welcomed the move and said that for too long the council had underfunded foster care.

She commented: “This comes after a long campaign and it is the right thing to do.

“Of course, foster parents don’t foster because of the pay but because they want to care for children in need but the fees can often make the difference between somebody continuing to foster or taking on more children.

“I know that Highland Council have written to all foster parents asking them to consider taking on more children.

“This demonstrates that compassionate policy-making isn’t just the right thing to do but also the most cost-effective thing to do.”

Information uncovered by the MSP during her campaign revealed 11 children had been placed more than 200 miles from their home.

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