New figures from Kate Forbes MSP show that Highland Council pays the lowest allowance rate in Scotland for foster carers with children under 11-years-old – sparking calls to rethink support for foster carers in order to boost numbers.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is campaigning for improvements to help foster carer recruitment in her constituency in the north of Scotland.
For 0-4-year-olds, Highland Council pays a weekly allowance of £77.69, the lowest rate in Scotland, and a figure less than half of what is being offered by the neighbouring rural local authority Argyll and Bute – which gives £196.71-per-week – a difference of more than £6,000-a-year.
Due to a lack of foster carers in the Highlands, the local council currently pays more than £2m-per-year on placing foster children outwith the area.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “This is a much bigger question about how we support foster carers. It is not about the money – that’s not what attracts foster carers to open their homes and lives to vulnerable children. However, it can make the difference to retaining and supporting them adequately.
“It is baffling that in Duror, part of my constituency, a foster carer would get an allowance of £77, whereas ten minutes down the road in Appin in Argyll and Bute, they would get more than double that. Argyll and Bute is arguably even more remote and rural than parts of the Highlands so it can’t just be due to the rural nature of the Highlands.
“It costs money to be a foster carer, not just to care for the child or young person, but also if a carer needs to be at home full time and so cannot work. Reconsidering financial support could help to retain some carers who are struggling to make ends meet and care for young people.
“Let’s not forget that the Highland Council currently has an out of area spend of over £2 million – so if more prospective foster carers come forward, we keep more kids in the Highlands and this sum reduces. That won’t necessarily be the right result for everybody, as there can be exceptional reasons why some children go out-of-area, but it will certainly help some.”