Changes to foster carer allowances in Devon will go ahead, despite concerns and protests from experienced carers.
Devon County Council’s cabinet agreed to move forward with changes to foster carer fees at a meeting on Wednesday.
Instead of a system which by the council’s admission had become confusing and inequitable, payments will be matched to the complexity of children’s needs, as well as the experience and skills of carers.
The minimum allowance starts at £229 per week, or £11,980 a year, with the highest allowance reaching £505 per week, which is £26,260 a year.
The changes mean 50 per cent of carers (135 carers) would see an increase in fees, 10 per cent would stay the same and 40 per cent would see a decrease, although those facing a decrease will see their income protected until placements reach their end.
One Bideford-based foster carer, who did not want to be named, said the changes were presenting ‘real concerns’ for experienced carers.
“With the level of the children we are asked to look after, we are a last stop shop before residential placements,” she said.
“The allowance goes towards upkeep of the home, their care, to get them to school, activities, clothes and food. I don’t squander it – I’m not running around tripping on furs and diamonds.
“We are 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. We have them with us living and breathing. It worked out to around 89 pence an hour before and with the new model its 69 pence. That’s what we are facing.
“We are the last bastion of family life for these kids. They have had very distorted view of what family life is like and if we don’t work with them now, who is going to teach them how to manage future generations?”
The county council said the ‘simpler and fairer system’ would attract more carers as well as concentrating on the needs of each child.
A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “Many of our foster carers are very supportive of the changes.
“Half will benefit and a further 10 per cent will remain the same. We’re protecting the allowances of those who would lose out for as long their placement lasts – not just two years as originally proposed.
“This is not about making cuts. We’re putting in an extra £1 million. But it can’t be right that currently - depending on your grade - you could receive a weekly fee of £397, £471 or £536 for the same 16-year-old child.
“We want our foster carers to be paid an appropriate fee based on the needs of the child they look after.”
Debbie Whiteway is a foster carer in Mid Devon. She said: “The old system was divisive and had created a ‘better than us’ culture, which was unfortunately allowed to flourish under previous regimes.
“We as a service were in desperate need of modernisation and bringing up to date with modern times. The old ways had been allowed to happen over past years with no one challenging how unfair the system had become.
“The new allowance system will be attached to the needs of the child as opposed to the carer, and it has my, and many other Devon County Council foster carers’, complete backing.”