Cost of living crisis: Extra money for foster parents in Brighton and Hove

FOSTER carers, who work directly with the council, will be given extra money to help as the cost of living rises, councilors have been told.

Officials told councilors that these foster parents tended to receive more than those who signed up with an independent foster agency, although they didn’t provide comparable figures.

Brighton and Hove City Council has sought to increase the proportion of foster parents working directly with Council and reduce its reliance on independent agencies.

Six months ago, in March, 66 children were in agency-arranged placements — or 30 percent of the total — while 155 children (70 percent) were in city government-arranged placements.

This compares to 109 agency placements in March 2009 – or 38 percent then – while 178 children (62 percent) were placed directly by the council.

A senior official said placements in agencies cost more money but carers get less because the agencies have made cuts in their overheads and profits.

The Council had a £3.2 million budget for foster care placements with independent agencies. It did not provide a figure for the total cost of direct placements.

The Argus: The subject was discussed at Brighton Town HallThe issue was discussed at Brighton Town Hall

The council said it prefers to place more children directly rather than through agencies, not just to save money but because it believes direct placement tends to be better for the children and their foster parents.

At a meeting of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee last week, officials said they had been working with East Sussex County Council to manage agency costs.

The Brighton Town Hall meeting said this includes a common “procurement framework” – with a list of trusted independent agencies and an agreement on fees.

Officials wanted to hold on to the agreement for the next four years from April next year, with an option for a further two years, making the total six years.

The meeting was told agency placements cost the council an average of £826 a week, which is split between the agency and the foster parents. Specialist placements with agencies that are not under the framework can cost up to £949 per week.

No figures were provided on the average cost of direct placement and the Council did not respond to a request for this information.

One of the council’s most senior officials, Deb Austin, said: “There is an element of profit in this money (which is paid to agencies). While it covers all costs, most independent foster homes make a profit.

“There are very few who are not for profit – and that’s a bit of a bone of contention. Some are owned by large hedge funds and make significant profits.

“Wherever possible we would like to place our children (directly) with caregivers from Brighton and Hove.”

Labor Councilor Amanda Grimshaw asked about the impact of rising living costs on foster families, as bills for food, water and heating would all rise.

She was told fees for “in-house” caregivers had risen by 5 per cent – and that when some caregivers eventually switched from an agency to the council, they were surprised to learn they were being paid more.

Cllr Grimshaw asked whether it would be possible to encourage more people to be promoted through the council rather than through ‘for profit’ agencies.

The Argus: Councilor Amanda Grimshaw was among those discussing the matterCouncilor Amanda Grimshaw was among those discussing the matter

The council said it tries to hire directly where possible, not least because these posts are usually in or much closer to Brighton and Hove.

The committee was told that some foster parents had registered with an agency in response to an agency’s publicity campaign, but believed they were dealing directly with the council before finding out otherwise.

Council members unanimously agreed to continue working with East Sussex County Council for a further four years, with an option to extend for a further two years.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “The average foster parent allowance in Brighton and Hove is £448 a week. This is based on the age of the child and the duration of the childcare activity.

“The nursing allowance consists of two parts. There is a fee element and a care element reflecting the cost of caring for a child.

“There have been two increases to these allowances this fiscal year. An annual increase in April 2022 and an additional 5 percent increase in July.”

You can find more information on the Council’s website and also see for information on becoming a foster parent in Brighton and Hove. Cost of living crisis: Extra money for foster parents in Brighton and Hove

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