Claiming Benefits

Claiming Benefits

As a foster carer you may be entitled to claim tax credits and benefits. The fees and allowances you receive from fostering are normally disregarded for the purposes of calculating your entitlement to benefits. For further information about benefits please visit the government’s website here and for information about tax credits, see here.

Child Benefit

You can claim Child Benefit for your own children, or other children that live with you, but not for foster children. To find out more contact the Child Benefit Helpdesk: 0300 200 3100 or click here.

Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Carer’s Allowance

Disability Living Allowance is a benefit paid to children and adults under 65 who have care or mobility needs as a result of a disability or ill-health, and is paid on top of any other benefits, tax credits or income you may have. DLA is being phased out for claimants aged 16-64 and replaced by PIP. This is a similar benefit but is based on a different type of assessment. Children getting DLA who reach 16 will be reassessed for either DLA or PIP depending on which part of the UK they live, although eventually all DLA claimants will be reassessed for PIP.

A child under 16 in foster care can still claim Disability Living Allowance, and the allowance is paid to an adult carer if the child is under 16. If you foster a child who receives Disability Living Allowance and/or if you want to claim Disability Living Allowance for a child under 16 that you care for, or for yourself, see here or contact the DWP on 0845 712 3456. Disability Living Allowance and PIP are both non-means-tested, tax-free benefits, which you do not have to declare on your tax return.

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone who receives the middle or higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (or either rate of PIP for daily living) or Attendance Allowance (a benefit for disabled people aged 65 or over). This could be an adult, your own child, or a fostered child, as long as you care for them 35 hours a week, and you earn under £102 net a week (foster payments are ignored as earnings). To claim Carer’s Allowance, email cau.customer-services@dwp.gsi.gov.uk  or phone 0345 608 4321. Your income from fostering is disregarded for calculating Carers Allowance – but Carers Allowance is taxable, so you would need to declare it on your tax return.

Means-tested benefits

Fostered children are not counted as part of your household when any means-tested benefits are calculated. Equally, the fees and allowances from fostering are not counted as income when calculating any of the following means-tested benefits: Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support (these benefits as well as tax credits, and except for help with council tax, are being phased out between 2014 and 2018 and replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit).

Income Support

Many foster carers are in a unique position, as you can choose whether to be deemed as working, and claim Working Tax Credit, or not working and claim Income Support.

Income Support is a non-taxable benefit, for people who work less than 16 hours a week but who aren’t required to sign on as unemployed, such as foster carers. The DWP don’t count fostering as work and fostering income does not count as pay for Income Support purposes. If you are fostering a child aged under 16, or a disabled child/young person, not doing other work and not looking for a job, you can claim Income Support in the weeks that you have a child in placement.

In the weeks when you don’t have a child in placement, you have to sign on as unemployed, and claim Jobseekers Allowance (unless you can claim Income Support for another reason, for example if you are a single parent with a child under age 5 or you are getting carers allowance). Any retainer you are paid from your fostering service when you don’t have a child in placement may be treated as earnings and reduce your entitlement to Job Seekers Allowance.

You will not qualify for Income Support if you have savings of more than £16,000 (year 2017/18 and 2018/19. Your entitlement to Income Support will be reduced if you (or any partner) have other employment and/or if you live with a partner who works more than 24 hours a week.

Mortgage lenders tend to look more favourably on Working Tax Credits than on Income Support, so if you have a mortgage, or are looking to get one, it might be worth considering claiming Working Tax Credit rather than Income Support.  On the other hand, if you already have a mortgage, you may be able to get help with mortgage payments if you are on Income Support.

Most foster carers will be better off claiming Income Support than getting Working Tax Credits, but make sure you get expert advice, for example from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, (see below) to ensure you make the right choice in your particular circumstances.

Council Tax Support

You can apply for a reduction in Council Tax directly to your Local Authority. Each Local Authority has their own rules and how much your Council Tax is reduced will depend on a number of factors, including whether you care for a disabled child, and the overall income of your household.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is for people who pay rent. You must have a low income and savings of less than £16,000 to qualify for this benefit.

The Government have put a cap on Housing Benefit, popularly known as ‘the bedroom tax’ or ‘spare room subsidy’ – meaning that entitlement to Housing Benefit (help with your rent) in social housing, as well as private rented accommodation, is reduced for under-occupancy. This would mean, in the social housing sector, that if you have a bedroom that is technically ‘empty’, your Housing Benefit would be reduced by 14% of your rent for one bedroom, or by 25% if two bedrooms are ’empty’. As foster children are not seen as members of your household, the rooms they use are therefore ‘empty’!

The Government agreed that foster carers are allowed one spare bedroom, in both private and social sector housing – so if you have one room ‘spare’ for fostering, this should have no impact on your Housing Benefit.

Local Authorities also have power to make Discretionary Housing Payments for which foster carers who have two or more ‘spare’ bedrooms (for example, two bedrooms not being used between placements) should be given priority for additional help with housing costs.  For more information see page 30 of the housing payments guidance manual. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/discretionary-housing-payments-guidance-manual This says “Foster Carers are allowed one extra bedroom under the size criteria rules providing they have fostered a child or became an approved foster carer within the last 52 weeks. Some claimants may be caring for siblings, or for two or more unrelated foster children, and require additional bedrooms. National minimum standards for Fostering Services state that a foster child over the age of 3 should generally have their own room. However, the size criteria rules only allow foster carers to have one extra bedroom; therefore, a DHP may be awarded to help cover any reduction in housing benefit due the additional rooms that are required”

Tax Credits

As a foster carer on a low income you may be able to claim both Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. They are non-taxable. Child Tax Credit is paid to you if you are responsible for a child or young person who normally lives with you (but not for foster children); Working Tax Credit is based on the hours you work and get paid for. HMRC see fostering as self-employment so foster carers are eligible to claim WTC.

When applying for Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit you need to disclose your profit from self-employment. This is the fostering income you receive in excess of your qualifying amount of Qualifying Care Relief.  If your fostering income is less than your qualifying amount you have no profit from fostering, and this is the amount (zero) you disclose as profits from fostering when claiming tax credits.

As a foster carer you may, until the full introduction of Universal Credit (see below) choose to claim either Income Support or Working Tax Credit. This would normally be the case if you are single or, if part of a couple, neither of you has earnings from another job. The level of tax credits you are entitled to will depend on your profit from fostering and, if you live with a partner, their earnings, so it is best to get expert advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (see below) on which route will leave you better off. For further advice you can contact the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 or see here https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/tax-credits .

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is being phased in and aims to simplify the benefit and tax credits system. In time it will replace 6 existing benefits/tax credits with a single monthly payment. Universal Credit will eventually replace:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

At this time, your eligibility to claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your personal circumstances. https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

The Government plans to make Universal Credit available in each part of Great Britain during 2016. New claims to existing benefits, which Universal Credit is replacing, will then close down, with the vast majority of claimants moving onto Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017. If you are already receiving these benefits or tax credits, they will continue to be paid until you are moved onto Universal Credit.

Under Universal Credit the same disregard for both fostering fees and allowances will apply. Any fees or allowances you receive from fostering will have no effect on the amount of Universal Credit you are entitled to and will not be treated as ‘earnings’ under Universal Credit.

There is an 8-week concession for foster carers from having to sign on as available for work between placements. This means that if you are a foster carer receiving Universal Credit, it will continue to be paid, without you having to sign on and look for other work, for up to 8 weeks if there is a gap between placements.

Universal Credit will be paid monthly rather than weekly or fortnightly; and it can only be claimed online, with telephone access in limited cases and face to face help to claim in exceptional circumstances. There are no paper based claim forms.

If you are a single foster carer of a child aged 1 or over, claiming Universal Credit, you will have to attend work-focussed interviews (wfi’s) at the Job Centre until the fostered child in your care reaches 16. After that age, you can still get Universal Credit but will have to sign-on as looking for work. The wfi’s are designed to help people prepare for work, but it’s not like ‘signing on’ as unemployed. A fostering couple who claim Universal Credit will have to nominate a lead carer to attend the work-focussed interviews, and the other member of the couple will be expected to look for work, unless not able to work e.g. due to ill-health, where a foster child needs two full time carers, or if you have other caring responsibilities. To find out more about Universal Credit click here. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. where young people have special needs), it will be possible to be treated as fostering until the young person reaches 18, and for neither carer to have to look for work.

For more information about benefits you can go the government’s website here https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits , the charity Turn2us https://www.turn2us.org.uk/ , or for expert benefits advice in your particular circumstances you can visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Benefits Calculator

The charity Turn2us provides an online benefits calculator. You can upload information about your household and finances and find out which benefits you might be entitled to claim. The benefits calculator is here. http://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou?gclid=CNqIo6z1sscCFcZ02wodyi0LNQ

Financial Information for Foster Carers

Financial Information for Foster Carers

Financial matters for foster carers can be complicated. We produce a range of resources to help keep confusion to a minimum and find your way through the financial jargon. To help you find what you need, we have broken down this section.

Tax and National Insurance Contributions

Registering as ‘self-employed’ with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

As a foster carer you are seen by HMRC as ‘self-employed’. If you are a new foster carer, the two key things you need to do straight away are to register as self-employed, as soon as you are approved by your fostering service, and to start keeping a record of the children you foster, the dates they are with you and their ages. If you don’t register with HMRC you may face a financial penalty.

You can register with HMRC by telephone, either by calling the HRMC Newly Self-Employed helpline on 0300 200 3504 or by filling in the paper form CWF1 (downloadable from HMRC’s website); or you can register online here: or you can register online on the following link.

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/shortforms/form/CWF1ST?dept-name=CWF1&sub-dep

It’s simplest to register online. If you do so you’ll automatically be prompted to send in your tax return, and already be set up to do so online.

Once you’re registered as self-employed you’re also automatically registered for Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

Don’t worry!

If you’ve never had to do tax returns before the process can feel daunting – but don’t worry, HMRC have done everything they can to make this process as simple and straightforward as possible.

Everyone (whether foster carers or not) gets an annual personal allowance (£11,500 for 17/18, £11,850 for 18/19) – an amount of income on which the Government takes no tax. In addition to the personal allowance, the Government provides qualifying care relief – a further allowance for foster carers who care for a looked after child, called your ‘qualifying amount’, on which foster carers pay no tax.

The qualifying amount is different for each foster carer, depending on how many children you’ve fostered, their ages, and how long you fostered them for within the tax year. Depending on your level of ‘qualifying amount’, you will probably find you aren’t required to pay any tax or national insurance on the income you earn from fostering.

Getting started

HMRC have provided an excellent short film to get you started. This explains how to register, how to keep records for tax purposes, how to work out your qualifying amount, and the way you can work out whether you owe tax or N.I. to HMRC. Click on the link below and let Charlotte, a new foster carer, take you through the whole process.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/courses/syob3/fc/index.htm

 

Sending in your tax return

Once you are registered as self-employed, you’ll be asked to send in a tax return each year, covering the period 6 April the previous year to 5 April in the current year. You have until 31 October of the current year to send in a paper tax return, or until 31 January of the next calendar year to send in your tax return online. If you register online you will be sent email reminders to prompt you to send in your tax return on time.

Working out if you owe tax to HMRC

As a foster carer, there are two ways you can work out whether you owe tax to HMRC – the ‘simplified method’ and the ‘profit method’. The HMRC film explains both these methods in full.

Using the ‘simplified method’

Using the simplified method, you use the records you’ve kept during the tax year (including the length and ages of each placement you’ve had) to work out your ‘qualifying amount’ for that tax year.

Your ‘qualifying amount’ is made up of two parts – a fixed rate of £10,000 per annum (year 17/18 and year 18/19), if you have been a foster carer for the full tax year, or pro-rata if you only started part way through the tax year), and a weekly rate of £200 (year 17/18 and year 18/19) for every week you had a child under the age of 11 placed with you; and £250 (year 17/18 and year 18/19) for every week you had a child over the age of 11 placed with you. [A tax week runs Monday-Sunday, and any part of a week counts as a full week, so if a child stayed with you from a Thursday to Tuesday, that would count as two weeks for HMRC]. If you care for a disabled child you can add the additional expenditure this entails, for example on special equipment, to the qualifying amount.

Your fostering service should give you a statement after 5th April showing all the income you’ve received from fostering in the previous tax year. If the total income you’ve received from fostering that tax year (fees, allowances, birthday and Christmas allowances, mileage and any other expenses paid to you) is less than your qualifying amount, you have no tax to pay.  Any income you earn above the qualifying amount is taxable and is regarded as your ‘taxable profit’.

Remember, if you have no other income (e.g. from any other employment), you also have your full £10,000 personal allowance to use, in addition to your qualifying amount from fostering.

Using the ‘profit method’

Using the profit method, you deduct your actual expenses spent on fostering from your fostering income for the tax year. It is usually only worth doing this if you have very high expenses connected with your fostering.

In practice, this method means you need to keep detailed records of everything you spend on fostering throughout the tax year and keep any receipts as evidence for HRMC. You need to be able to show what proportion of all your expenditure (bills, food shopping etc) was on fostering, which can be tricky to work out.

To reduce the administrative burden of this, HMRC may agree that you can keep detailed records of your expenditure on fostering over a shorter period and use this as an average monthly or weekly expenditure when filling in your tax return.

For any ‘profit’ made on your fostering income, remember you still have your personal allowance to take advantage of before tax is calculated, as long as you have no other income (eg from any other employment).

Special types of fostering and tax

If you privately foster a child (i.e. if you are paid directly by the parents of that child in a private arrangement with them), or if you provide family and friends care or short break/respite care for a child who is not ‘looked after’ by the local authority, payments you receive do not qualify for ‘qualifying care relief’. However, if the payments are made to you under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (support for children in need), they are still tax free.

HMRC use the term ‘shared lives’ to cover a range of other types of placements. With parent and child care, even if only the parent is ‘looked after’, you can still use ‘qualifying care relief’ for both parent and child on the payments made to you by the local authority. When a young person reaches 18, if the local authority pays for you to continue to care for them as a shared lives carer, or as staying put care, you can still use a version of ‘qualifying care relief’. See the government website here. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/bimmanual/BIM52758.htm

 

If you have a special guardianship order or a residence order (and you are not the child’s parent or step-parent) any payment you receive is exempt from tax under the ‘qualifying guardians’ exemption. These payments are not treated as income from self-employment and you don’t need to declare them on a self-assessment tax return.

Foster caring and national insurance

All self-employed people must register to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions, which are set at £2.85 a week for 2017/18 and £2.95 a week for 2018/19. When you register as self-employed with HMRC you are also automatically registered for national insurance.

You don’t have to pay Class 2 contributions if your profit is below a certain amount. You will need to apply for a ‘small earnings exemption’ (SEE) if your profit from fostering is below £6,025 in 2017/2018 or £6,205 in 2018/19 – but your entitlement to benefits and a state pension may be affected. You can apply for National Insurance credits to protect your National Insurance record in these circumstances. Get form CF411A from HMRC to get these credits.

You will need to pay the higher rate (Class 4) National Insurance contributions if your profits from fostering are over £8,164 in 2017.18 or £8,424 in 2018/19.

To find out more call the HMRC Self Employed National Insurance Contributions Helpline on 0300 200 3504

More guidance and resources on tax from HMRC

As well as the short film, HMRC have produced lots of helpful advice and guidance for foster carers. There are webinars specifically for foster carers, shared lives carers and those completing a tax return for the first time here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/webinars-emails-and-videos-if-youre-self-employed#8

You could also download record keeping apps supplied by the HMRC http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/softwaredevelopers/mobile-apps/record-keeping.htm

And for further general advice and information for foster carers on tax issues visit HMRC or call the HMRC Newly Self-Employed Helpline on 0300 200 3504

 Allowances for foster carers

 Allowances for foster carers

From the 1st Jan 2018, foster carers are paid £390 for children age 0 to 10 years old and £413 for children age 11 to 17 years old. The payment is broken down into carers allowance and accountable allowance

  1. Carers allowance – this belong to the foster carer. It includes the carers fee and the cost to cover the household expenditures such as rent, utility rates, food and other expenses.
  2. Accountable allowance – this allowance must be spent on the child as detailed in the child’s initial placement agreement (see more details below)

 

0 to 10 years old 11 to 17 years old
Carers allowance £315.00 £323.00
Accountable allowance £75.00 £90.00
Weekly payment £390.00 £413.00

 

We are also increasingly required to monitor and account for the way in which accountable allowances for children are spent. Foster carers are asked to keep records of their spending on certain key items which are listed below. Supervising social workers will need to monitor this expenditure over time.

 

Categories of Accountable Expenditure – per week Under 11s Over 11s
Pocket money £0- £5 £5 – £25
Savings £5 £5- £10
Educational & leisure activities £20 £20 – £5
Toys, books, educational and leisure equipment £10 £10
Clothing and Footwear £15 £15-£25
Festivals & Birthdays £5 £5
Family events and activities £15 £15 -£0
Personal Care £0 £5
Mobile phones £0 £5
Total expenditure to be accounted for £75 £90

The above amounts are guidelines and need to be individually agreed for each child. Foster carers, young people and social workers can together decide to spend more or less on any of these categories. However, the total accountable expenditure must come to:

£75 for children age 0 to 10 years old

£90 for young people age 11 to 17 years old

Extremism and Radicalisation

Extremism and Radicalisation

 Greater London Fostering is committed to providing a secure environment for all of our C&YP, carers and staff. The current threat from terrorism extremism in the United Kingdom can involve the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, young people and vulnerable adults to involve them in terrorism or activity in support of terrorism.

Greater London Fostering values freedom of speech and the expression of beliefs / ideology as fundamental rights underpinning our society’s values. C&YP, foster carers and staff have the right to speak freely and voice their opinions. However, freedom comes with responsibility and free speech that is designed to manipulate the vulnerable or that leads to violence and harm of others goes against the moral principles in which freedom of speech is valued. Free speech is not an unqualified privilege; it is subject to laws and policies governing equality, human rights, community safety and community cohesion.

It is imperative that our C&YP see Greater London Fostering as a safe place where they can discuss and explore controversial issues safely and in an unbiased way and where our foster carers and staff encourage and facilitate this.

We recognise that extremism and exposure to extremist materials and influences can lead to poor outcomes for our C&YP. We also recognise that if we fail to challenge extremist views we are failing to protect our C&YP.

Extremists of all persuasions aim to develop destructive relationships between different communities by promoting division, fear and mistrust of others based on ignorance or prejudice and thereby limiting the life chances of C&YP. Education is a powerful weapon against this; equipping C&YP with the knowledge, skills and critical thinking, to challenge and debate in an informed way.

Therefore, Greater London Fostering provides specific training (effective as of January 2016) for all foster carers and staff. This is so that our foster carers and staff are enriched, understand and become tolerant of difference and diversity and also to ensure that they thrive, feel valued and not marginalised.

We are aware that young people can be exposed to extremist influences or prejudiced views from an early age which emanate from a variety of sources and media, including via the internet, and at times C&YP may themselves reflect or display views that may be discriminatory, prejudiced or extremist, including using derogatory language.

Any prejudice, discrimination or extremist views, including derogatory language, displayed by C&YP, staff, visitors or other professionals should always be challenged and where appropriate dealt with.

As part of wider safeguarding responsibilities foster carers, supervising social workers and other staff will be alert to:

Disclosures by C&YP of their exposure to the extremist actions, views or materials of others, especially where C&YP have not actively sought these out;

  • Graffiti symbols, writing or art work promoting extremist messages or images;
  • C&YP accessing extremist material online, including through social networking sites;
  • Foster carer reports of changes in behaviour, friendship or actions and requests for assistance;
  • Local schools, Local Authority services, and police reports of issues affecting C&YP;
  • C&YP voicing opinions drawn from extremist ideologies and narratives;
  • Use of extremist or ‘hate’ terms to exclude others or incite violence;
  • Intolerance of difference, whether secular or religious or, in line with our equalities policy, views based on, but not exclusive to, gender, disability, homophobia, race, colour or culture;
  • Attempts to impose extremist views or practices on others.

We will promote the values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs. We will train and encourage foster carers, staff and C&YP to respect one another and to respect and tolerate difference, especially those of a different faith or no faith.

Assessing Risk

Foster Carers, supervising social workers and their managers will continuously assess the level of risk or vulnerability of a child or young person being radicalised and will put actions in place to reduce that risk.

Any risk and actions to counter these risks will be written into the safer caring policy and regularly reviewed.

Any assessed risk will be shared with Greater London Fostering’s Registered Manager who will advise upon any actions and reporting to other agencies.

Response

All foster carers and staff within Greater London Fostering are required to report instances where they believe a child or young person may be at risk of harm or neglect or if they have concerns that a child or young person may be at risk of radicalisation or involvement in terrorism.

All concerns should be reported to Greater London Fostering’s Registered Manager.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Greater London Fostering’s Registered Manager has primary responsibility for ensuring that all children and young people and safeguarded and this includes safeguarding from Extremism and Radicalisation.
  • All Managers, Social Worker and other staff have a responsibility to report any incidents where they believe there is a risk of Extremism and Radicalisation to the Registered Manager.
  • Greater London Fostering will provide training and advice for all foster carers and staff so that they can maintain a good understanding of the relevant guidance in relation to preventing C&YP from becoming involved in terrorism and protecting them from radicalisation by those who support terrorism or forms of extremism which lead to terrorism.
  • Greater London Fostering’s registered manager will ensure that any relevant risks, concerns and incidents are shared with the appropriate authorities (Local Authorities, Police and Schools etc.) in a timely manner.

Greater London Fostering will ensure that where there is assessed to be a risk of a child or young person being radicalised that this risk and counter measures are written into the child or young person’s safer caring plan.

Education

Education

Foster carers must do everything they can, in liaison with the child’s social worker and their supervising social worker to make sure that children receive an appropriate education.

Each child will have a Personal Education Plan (PEP) which sets out the educational plan for each child. Foster carers should be invited to and must attend the meeting where this educational plan is drawn up.

They must encourage and assist foster children to attend school regularly.

They should keep in close touch with the child’s school so that they know how the child is getting on.

They must attend all open days and consultation sessions at the child’s school unless it has been decided that the child’s parent or social worker should do this.

They must deal promptly with any issues which arise in school.

They must support and encourage children with homework particularly making sure that there is a time and place for homework to be done.

If foster children have no school place or have been temporarily excluded foster carers must make sure that the children have appropriate activities and are properly supervised throughout the school day. This should be done in close liaison with the child’s social worker and the carer’s supervising social worker.

 

Domestic Arrangements

Domestic Arrangements

Foster homes must be warm, adequately furnished and maintained to a good standard of cleanliness and hygiene. The accommodation must be big enough to comfortably accommodate everyone who is living there.

The foster home and its immediate environment must be kept free of avoidable hazards and contain safety barriers and other safety equipment appropriate to foster children’s age and level of ability.

These things will be checked annually by your SSW during the unannounced Health and Safety visit.

Foster carers must tell their supervising social worker about any changes to the physical arrangements of the house and the people who are staying (temporarily) or living in the household.

Foster children must have their own bedroom unless other arrangements have been agreed by the child’s social worker or in the case of a new placement by the local authority placements officer on their behalf.

Foster children’s sleeping arrangements should not be changed without the prior agreement of the child’s social worker and the family’s supervising social worker.

 

Dogs – Guidance for foster carers

Dogs – Guidance for foster carers

Foster carers have to exercise particular care in their choice of family pet and cannot keep dogs which pose a serious threat to their foster children. Choosing a suitable animal is the first step and needs to be followed by rigorous training and good care. As part of GLF’s health and safety checks an annual questionnaire is completed on all pets to ensure that they continue to be acceptable alongside fostering.

Dogs are sometimes responsible for the serious injury and death of children. Nobody believes their family pet is capable of hurting anybody but as a fostering agency we cannot take any chances. For information on the harm that some family pets can cause please see this website: http://www.ukandspain.com/dangerous-dogs/.  Foster children are particularly vulnerable as they might aggravate an otherwise docile animal. Foster carers therefore have to be especially careful about the breed of dog they choose to have.

A few dogs are banned from being kept as pets by law. Currently these are: Pitbull, Japanese Tosas, Fila Brasileiros and Dogo Argentinos. GLF has decided to place further restrictions on the dogs which we consider acceptable as pets. We do not think foster carers should keep dogs that, should they become aggressive, have the potential to seriously harm a child.

It is impossible for GLF to produce a definitive list of those dogs we consider unacceptable. However, things we will take into account are; the history of the breed, their size and the type of jaw they have. We must always err on the side of caution. Dogs that GLF have decided should not be part of a fostering household include: Rottweilers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Doberman Pinschers.

If you are thinking about getting a dog you should consult your GLF supervisor before making any decisions. Check out on the internet any breed you are considering. If it has ever been implicated in attacks on children then we are most unlikely to approve this choice. If foster carers choose a dog which the agency considers unsuitable then it is likely that they will be asked to choose between keeping the dog and continuing to foster.

 

 

 

Fostering Deregistration

Deregistration

GLF will deregister foster carers who are either significantly or consistently unable or unwilling to comply with the foster care agreement they have entered into. Deregistration is viewed as a last resort and all reasonable efforts will be made to address shortcomings prior to a recommendation for deregistration.

In the event of a very serious act or omission which prejudices the safety of foster children or the reputation of the agency the directors will make arrangements with the relevant local authority to move any children placed and instigate the deregistration procedure.

Foster Care Agreements and the Foster Carer’s handbook are revised annually and foster carers should identify any difficulty they have in complying with new expectations as they become aware of them.

Proposed deregistration will be considered by the GLF Fostering Panel. Full details of the procedure followed can be found in the Panel Procedures booklet. (If you need a copy of this please ask your SSW)

Carers affected will be given at least four weeks’ notice of the Panel and will be invited to make written representations and to attend in person. Foster carers will be sent the Panel’s recommendation and the decision maker’s interim decision in writing as soon as practicable. Foster carers have the right (within twenty-eight days of the date of this letter) to make written representations to the agency decision maker or to apply to the Secretary of State for an independent review of this recommendation.

You can find out exactly how to apply to the Secretary of State by accessing the independent review mechanism website which is https://www.independentreviewmechanism.org.uk/

If no representations are made and no independent review applied for GLF’s agency decision maker will after 28 days from the date of the letter to the foster carers make a final decision taking into account the panel’s recommendation.

If an independent review is convened GLF’s agency decision maker will defer the final decision until they have the recommendations of the independent review panel.

The foster carer will receive this decision in writing and if an independent review has taken place a copy of this letter will be sent to the Secretary of State.

If the decision is for deregistration GLF will notify the foster carer’s home authority and the panel will be asked to consider whether or not a referral to POCA is appropriate.

In accordance with data protection legislation GLF will share information it holds about ex-carers with other appropriate organisations such as local authorities, other fostering agencies and the Secretary of State (where necessary) in compliance with the Protection of Children Act 1999.

Contact

Contact

Foster carers must do all that they can to promote good contact between foster children and their birth families and family friends so long as this is consistent with the child’s Care Plan.

The child’s social worker is responsible for deciding what level of contact should take place and with whom at the beginning of the placement.

They must assess any risks involved and how these will be managed.

Foster children should not be allowed to have any contact with their families until their foster carers are told either by the child’s social worker or their supervising social worker that such a risk assessment has been made.

Foster carers should ask what level and type of contact is expected before placement and should clarify the arrangements at the placement planning meeting.

Contact will be discussed at every child’s review.

Foster carers must tell their supervising social worker and the child’s social worker about any difficulties in respect of contact at the earliest opportunity.

Foster carers must keep a written record of contact arrangements and of how they work out in practice. They must note whether or not the child looks forward to and appears to enjoy contact and any behavioural changes which appear to be linked to contact.

Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest arise when people have more than one role in life and they cannot as a consequence of their various roles fulfil all their responsibilities to each as they should.

Conflicts of interest arise regularly for foster carers who are trying to balance the differing needs of their own and foster children. There is sometimes a conflict of interest between the need to keep information about foster children confidential whilst protecting the interests of family and friends.

Other conflicts of interest occur less often, for instance if foster carers are employed by a particular local authority requesting a placement, or foster carers are asked by the agency to foster a child who proves to be a relative of theirs.

Foster carers and staff must tell their supervisor about any possible conflict of interest they have identified and comply with any agency requirements to manage the issue.