Deciding to become a foster carer is a huge decision to make. Many questions will come to mind – some obvious, others less so. To foster a child is a life changing experience: in this, part 3 of our series, we offer answers to some more of the questions that people have when they first consider becoming foster parents.
What if I/we simply don’t get on with the child placed with us?
Carers understand that there will be some children that will settle more easily into their homes. Local authorities and foster agencies strive to find the best matches when placing children. It is inevitable that on occasions there will be difficulties: children who have had disrupted lives will take time to settle and feel confident. Sometimes, however, there are more deep rooted problems.
If this happens, it is very important that the issue(s) are raised quickly with your social worker. When there is difficulty, the child will be aware of this which can make things worse – making it important to get support early on.
Even when additional training or support is made available, it has to be recognised that some placements will simply not work out and that this not necessarily the fault of anyone. In such circumstances, it is usually best for all concerned that another placement for the child is sought.
It should be remembered that this can happen to the most experienced foster carers: if new to fostering, this type of occurrence, although regrettable, should be seen as part of the learning process.
Foster care and financial matters: how do foster carers receive payment?
A weekly fostering allowance is paid to all foster carers. It is designed to cover the costs of caring for a child such as food, clothing and travel (for an older child). It also covers pocket money. The allowance level differs across fostering service providers and the amount can vary according to the age of the child. Minimum levels have been set for allowances in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. The situation is different in Scotland.
Some foster care service providers also pay their carers a fee on top of the allowance. The amount paid usually varies according to the skills and experience of the foster carer(s). Before making a decision, it is wise to check on the allowances and fees paid, as they vary, to ensure you will receive the amount needed to cover the costs of looking after a child.
Do foster carers have to pay tax and national insurance?
For tax purposes, foster carers are regarded as being self-employed by HM Revenue and Customs. Foster carers can use a specific tax scheme which is known as Qualifying Care Relief which works out a tax threshold which is unique to the particular fostering household. The scheme will calculate if a foster carer has to pay any tax from their fostering.
People who are self-employed, must register in order to pay Class 2 National Insurance. Where a foster carer’s taxable profit from being self-employed is nil, or below £5,965 (for 2015/16), they will qualify under SPT (Small Profit Threshold): this will exempt them from paying the contributions.
It should be remembered that individual circumstances differ, so the foster carer will have to judge if this is the best option, or whether they need to make other arrangements in order to maintain their National Insurance record.
There is additional information available concerning tax and National Insurance at HM Revenue and Customs: visit https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs
How will fostering affect my welfare benefits?
If you are claiming welfare benefits currently, you are likely to be able to continue whilst you foster.
Fostering agencies, or authorities ‘approve’ their foster carers as opposed to employing them, which has a special effect upon any means tested benefits that may be being received. Generally, payments made for fostering are disregarded when welfare benefits are calculated. There is an alternative: foster carers may be able to claim Working Tax Credit because HMRC regards fostering as work when a carer has a child in placement.
If I work on a full time basis, can I still foster?
Fostering services are likely to have their own individual policies relating to their foster carers working full time. It is more usual for foster carers to have part time jobs as this provides for some flexibility. Generally, it would not be satisfactory for a foster child to be in full time day care whilst their foster carer worked full time. This would make it difficult for the carer to attend training, support meetings, or indeed to be available to facilitate contact between a child and their birth family. Where carer works part time and the child they are fostering is older, some fostering service providers will accept that the use of after school clubs; for example is acceptable to allow a foster carer to work. Again, it is particularly difficult to balance the needs of a ‘looked after child’ with a full time job commitment. However, if you are fostering as a couple, one carer will usually be designated the “main”
If I have previously had financial problems, can I still be considered for fostering?
If you have experienced previous financial problems, this should not stop you from fostering. But you will need to be able to show that you are now in a financial position that is stable enough to provide a secure home for a child. You will also be expected to be able to manage the allowance and any additional fee you might receive for fostering
There is a pressing need for foster carers with a shortfall this year of around 9,000 foster families. So please don’t delay; start the process of fostering today.
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…Spring is here at last and we are looking forward to the full and varied diary of events being arranged over the Summer months for our children.
Follow up on our ‘Rewards’ bonus scheme.
We will pay a bonus of £500 if you are a fostering and refer someone to be a carer with Rainbow Fostering: once your referral has been approved, and their first placement made, the money will be paid to you. If you are already an approved carer – and have a current long term placement, you can transfer to Rainbow and be eligible for a bonus. We provide all the necessary support and guidance for transferring, which is a straightforward process. We can also advise on a whole range of issues such as foster carer pay: how long does it take to become a foster carer? Or even what is fostering? We can also provide information on how much do private fostering agencies pay?
If you are a carer: check our news section.
Remember: visit our special news section on Rainbow’s web site. There are plenty of articles of interest if you are involved in fostering. Simply visit http://bit.ly/2e8PrIK And feel free to contact us with your own views or fostering experiences. We would like very much to hear from you whatever type of fostering you do.