The proposed delay of two years before the significant pay cut is meted out to over 100 of the most experienced foster carers in the county, who are looking after the most challenging children, was the last minute amendment tabled by officers at the children’s scrutiny committee meeting, on 17 September.
A further amendment by the children’s scrutiny committee to retain income for all current placements (with no two year delay), has been rejected on the grounds of it being too expensive to implement.
There was also concern from foster carers that this model (retaining income for current placements) would be unhelpful for foster carers who take in short –term placements or those who are currently not looking after children, as they would see an immediate cut.
The current proposal – if endorsed by cabinet on Wednesday – is a slight improvement on the initial plans, which saw a delay for those foster carers set to lose five per cent or more of their income, only.
However, it simply delays the inevitable, which is that under these proposals over 100 foster carers (around 40 per cent of all Devon County Council’s foster carers) will lose between £5000 and £15000 every year. A huge and unacceptable amount.
If plans are agreed on Wednesday, many foster carers say that they will be forced to leave the profession as a result, with placements being disrupted and the biggest losers being the children they care for.
Officers say that they have invested £1m into the service, and this funding, along with the extra money they’re proposing to remove from the most experienced foster carers, will be used to recruit and remunerate new carers.
Foster caring is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week job. Although rewarding, it is also tough and challenging, especially for those looking after the most challenging children, which these proposals affect most. From having spoken with dozens of foster carers, I agree that this is an outrageous and short-sighted proposal by Devon County Council.
To cut people’s income in order to increase the pay of others is simply morally wrong and contrary to natural justice. And it will almost certainly cause the most suffering for the children.
Foster carers have told me that:
– That they feel very undervalued and disappointed with the way Devon County Council has sought to slash their income
– That their counter proposal for the scheme to apply to new foster carers only, has been ignored
– That these proposals will simply cost the council more as it is likely to have to rely on independent agencies more as a result
– That the consultation was flawed, with only a small group of representatives involved in drawing up proposals and then a small number drop-in sessions arranged during July and August,
which is the busiest time for carers, with children off school.
– The assessment process that determined how challenging children are and so how much income the carer should receive, was undertaken without consultation with individual foster carers.
In some instances, the assessors had not even met the children they assessed. There is considerable conflict as a result, between officers and foster carers, as many believe their children
have been wrongly assessed.
– There is no evidence to suggest that more foster carers will be recruited on the basis of these proposals. Given that many existing experienced foster carers may leave Devon County
Council as a result, this would seem to be a significant omission.
– That all foster carers should have been spoken to individually about the plans.
Pic: Demo outside County Hall before the Children’s Scrutiny meeting on 18 September.