Recruitment drive for Sheffield foster carers as city has a “significant shortage”

Sheffield has a “significant shortage” of foster carers – and families who do foster are paid less than other South Yorkshire towns.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 18 March, 2019, 12:22

Over the past four years, Sheffield has recorded a fall from 307 foster carers to 247 according to a council report.

As the number of foster carers has fallen, the number of looked-after children in Sheffield has increased from 589 in May 2017 to 619 in December 2018.

There is a national shortage of 7,600 foster families but Sheffield Council admits it pays lower than other places. Rotherham has increased its foster pay by 19 per cent while independent fostering agencies have bumped their pay up by 23 per cent.

“There is currently a significant shortage of foster carers in Sheffield and the numbers have been decreasing rather than increasing,” says Paul Dempsey, assistant director provider services, in a report.

“The market to recruit foster carers is competitive. We know from local research that the financial offer to our foster carers is not competitive with other local authorities in South Yorkshire or local independent fostering agencies.”

The average payment per child, per week to foster carers is:

Sheffield – £324

Doncaster – £358

Barnsley – £359

Rotherham – £385

Independent Fostering Agencies – £450

A lack of carers means the council has to place children with independent agencies. These are always more expensive and very often out of the city or in residential homes that don’t meet the child’s needs to be with a family.

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The report says: “We have a responsibility to provide the best care that we can. Local, high quality foster care placements are absolutely essential for improving all outcomes for children in care and can have a huge impact in transforming children’s lives.

“An insufficient number and range of foster carers is hampering our ability to place older young people in family placements.

“The percentage of our looked after children population placed in residential care is currently 13 per cent – this is relatively high. If we were to reduce this to 10 per cent, closer to national average, we would be providing 19 more family based placements for children instead of residential.”

The council has set a target to recruit 40 additional foster carers by 2020 and see fewer than 20 carers leave or retire from the service.

New and improved allowances and payments will be introduced. Increased fees at entry level will help more people to be able to afford to foster and reduce or give up paid work to take on fostering.

A reduction in payments for a second or third child will be removed to encourage carers to help keep siblings together. There will be more investment in placements for older children and carers will also get an enhanced wraparound support package.

The Fostering Network suggests fewer than one in 10 foster carers are paid above the National Minimum Wage.

The Sheffield report adds: “Research shows that while financial reward is not the only driver in deciding to become foster carers, there is some evidence that carers choose to stay or leave fostering where they compare their reward with that of others in similar situations.

“Enhancing the financial offer to carers hopes to help redress this balance and ensure that carers are rewarded appropriately.

“We know that we are in a competitive market for foster carers and that there are very many independent fostering agencies in Sheffield and the region which work hard to recruit the limited number of people who are interested and have the qualities to be good foster carers.”

The report will be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday and can be read here:

http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s34406/Fostering%20Business%20Case.pdf