We live in an age of cynics, but this is not new: Oscar Wilde had it – both accurately and presciently, that the cynic is ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’ This damning phrase is at much at home in our day and age as it was in Wilde’s – perhaps more so. A torrent of rhetoric testifies to the value we (society) apparently place on our army of stalwart foster carers. High flown hyperbole is usually ready to hand when fostering is the subject under discussion – the commitment and selflessness of carers being beyond reproach. Sadly, when we get into the detail of pounds, shillings and pence, foster carers are suddenly defenceless against encroaching cuts. What is so suspect, is that we recognise – and it couldn’t be any other way – that children are vulnerable, yet overlook the fact our foster carers are themselves vulnerable. Despite this, so many of them continue to battle on, often contributing their own money to try and ensure their foster children don’t miss out.
Bradford Council will not be the last council to feel the financial pressures: the Fostering Network’s chief executive, Kevin Williams, recently stated “many authorities had frozen their rates in response to tightening funding from central government, but cutting them was highly unusual.” Further, “The cost of looking after children is not reducing, therefore cutting allowances is a drastic step with knock-on effects for foster carers and the children in their care. Foster carers across the UK are increasingly being forced to subsidise the care of the children they are looking after – or the children will go without – and this is truly shocking.” Kevin Williams added – “We are in danger of foster carer finances becoming a race to the bottom, with the wellbeing of thousands of children under threat.”
In recent press coverage, the view of one foster carer is germane: “People actually started giving notice [of their intent to stop fostering] after the decision,” (to cut allowances). The foster carer continued – “Everyone knows inflation is rising; you already spend your own money to meet expenses. This is taking money and opportunities away from kids.”
The argument is put forward ‘The books have to be balanced’. But this is the excuse which is always advanced to justify cutbacks that in time, usually result in far greater costs – both to the taxpayer, and very often to the fabric of society itself.
A very good example of such ‘chickens coming home to roost’ occurred in the NHS. It was always by far the easiest option to defer the costs of training the doctors and nurses the country so badly needed. This country is full of bright youngsters who simply in the past could not get places at medical school. On paper, money was saved. But the result: today there is a growing crisis in the NHS, with government now desperately making funding available to train the doctors they must have known we would ultimately need. Curiously, however, there is never a shortage of money for a politician’s vanity project. It is a fact rarely mentioned today, but Tony Blair’s ‘chose and book’ project is a classic example: this plan aimed to link more than 30,000 GPs with 300 hospitals. “Up to 600 million pieces of paper a year” would be saved was the promise. In this brave new world, patients’ notes would be accessible in any hospital in the country at the click of a mouse. GPs would have been able to book hospital appointments online – ‘choose and book’. Apparently, Tony Blair joked about making GPs’ handwriting “legible for the first time in history”. All these years later, the joke has certainly backfired. The “Connecting for Health” project ended up years behind schedule and more than three times over its initial £6.2 billion budget. Lord Warner, the health minister at the time, revealed that the real cost of this failed IT project would approach £20 billion by 2010. How many doctors and nurses would we now have in the system had that £20 billion been spent on training instead? The mind boggles – especially since it is likely this key question was never even posed as an alternative. Certainly not by the project’s consultants – which included Price Waterhouse Coopers, PA Consulting, Ernst & Young, IBM and Cap Gemini – who received more than £11.75 million of taxpayers’ money.
Foster a recognition of the true value of carers
So perhaps this is the time to stand up for the idea that foster carers, rather than facing cuts in allowances, should instead be paid a much greater rate for one of the most responsible and difficult jobs in society. If we can’t attract and retain enough foster carers in the future, more young people will fall through the net, with a significant proportion falling foul of the legal system. Back in 2012, it was costing the taxpayer £40,000 a year to keep a prisoner in jail – the costs will be that much greater today. Government should learn from its past mistakes and understand that the false economy always comes with a far heftier price tag.
Wanting to foster children? Then please don’t forget ‘Rainbow Rewards’
Rainbow is an independent fostering agency with its headquarters in London. Our policy is to pay a bonus of £500, if you are in a position to refer someone to be a foster carer with our agency. The bonus will be paid once your referral has been approved, and the first placement has been made. Those people who already foster, if they wish to transfer to Rainbow, will also qualify for a special bonus payment. This will be made for foster carers who are already looking after youngsters on a long-term basis.
And the good news at the end of this particular rainbow…the tremendous response to our Twitter campaign aimed at attracting followers keen to promote child literacy continues. Literacy is the most important life skill, and we work hard to hard to promote it, again, there are some excellent reading recommendations for children and young people on our Facebook page – simply visit and scroll down: http://bit.ly/2csBXVd
Keeping you up to date with all the fostering news
We have a special news section on our web site which is regularly updated. Here you will find much that is of topical interest from around the UK for all those who foster; or who have a general interest in fostering. Simply visit http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK for regular updates.