Taking care of the region’s foster carers

FOSTER carer fees in the Borders are being increased in the hope of attracting more families to come forward to offer a temporary home to the increasing number of children in the region needing to be placed with a foster family.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive approved a range of new measures for foster carers, which as well as increasing weekly fees and allowances, also offer carers a retainer for the weeks when they do not have any foster children in their care.

An SBC executive working group looked at the pressures and challenges facing the council over the availability of foster carers in the Borders and came up with the range of new measures that have now been approved.

They looked at ways to improve support and sustain current foster carers as well as increasing the council’s ability to recruit carers over the coming year to reflect expected demographic increases.

They were also asked to identify ways to support the management of the substantial increase in numbers of Looked After Children.

The pressures being experienced by SBC are not unique.

In Scotland, the number of children living with foster families has risen by around a third since 2005 with SBC itself having experienced a 22% increase from 2006-2010 in the number of children and young people requiring to be accommodated.

Over the past year, this rose to 35.8%.

SBC currently has 128 children in full time placements (101 placed with foster carers and 27 in placements outside the Borders) and 47 children receiving respit with 93 carer households.

Councillor Ron Smith, executive member for children and strategic services, who was chair of the executive working group, said: “Family life is a central component in growing up as a confident and contented individual and SBC, responsible for Looked After Children, must aim to provide comfortable and happy environments for such children and young people.

“We have been finding difficulty in placing them with families within the Borders, and placements further afield cause financial pressures as well as disruption to their links with their own birth families, with friends and in the continuity of their education.

“We feel we have produced recommendations which could improve the situation for foster carers, encourage their recruitment, and bring those more comfortable family-style environments which the children deserve.”

Nicola Beck was one of the carers that the Working Group met. “Becoming foster carers was a lifestyle choice for our family and while we don’t foster for financial gain, the extra fees and allowances will help – even if it’s just by way of enabling us to be of more help to the children in our care,” said Nicola.

“We were pleased to see that the council is introducing a retainer fee as this will bring additional stability and peace of mind.

“There’s no doubt that fostering can be challenging but to see a child flourish and grow in the loving, safe and homely environment that you provide them makes it all worthwhile.”

Andrew Lowe, director of social work added: “Foster care remains the best option for the children we look after and I have no doubt that implementation of these proposals will ensure that we continue to provide the best service we can for the children in the Scottish Borders who need our support.”