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Foster Carers: A Guide to Fostering

The main role of foster carers is looking after children whose parents are unable to. Even so, money and support is available for anyone interested in becoming a foster carer.

The UK Process for Becoming a Foster Carer

  1. The fostering agency (or council) will collect information about you and anyone over 18 in your household. It includes a health check and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  2. You will join in a group preparation session with other applicants.
  3. They will assess your suitability to foster (can take 6 months).
  4. Your application goes to an independent fostering panel to recommend whether you can become a foster carer.
  5. The fostering service will make a final decision.

Note: Anyone with an interested in fostering can apply to foster a child through their local council authority.

Using Fostering Agencies

Local councils often use fostering agencies. An agency can help get children into foster care (especially those who may be difficult to place). You can also search for a fostering agency yourself in your area.

Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0800 040 7675

Getting Help with the Cost of Fostering

If you become a foster carer you could get a weekly allowance which would help you cover the cost of caring for a child.

Fostering Allowance Rates 2021 to 2022

Region Babies (0 to 2) Pre-Primary (3 to 4) Primary (5 to 10) Age 11 to 15 Age 16 to 17
London £155 £158 £177 £201 £235
Areas in the South East £149 £153 £169 £193 £226
The Rest of England £134 £138 £152 £173 £202

Fostering Allowance Rates 2020 to 2021

Region Babies (0 to 2) Pre-Primary (3 to 4) Primary (5 to 10) Age 11 to 15 Age 16 to 17
London £152 £155 £174 £197 £231
Areas in the South East £146 £150 £166 £189 £222
The Rest of England £132 £135 £149 £170 £198

Note: The rates are the minimum weekly allowances (updated every April). A higher rate may apply if the foster carer has certain skills, the child has specific needs, or there is a particularly large commitment to fostering.

Foster Carers Tax Free Earnings

Tax Exemption

A fixed tax exemption exists for foster carers up to £10,000 per year (less for a shorter period). It would be an equal amount and shared among any foster carers in the same household. So, a foster carer would not have to pay tax on the first £10,000 income they make from fostering.

Tax Relief

You may also qualify for tax relief on top of the exemption. As a rule, it applies for each week (or part of a week) that a child is in your foster care. So, tax would not be liable on some earnings above the £10,000 threshold.


Becoming a foster carer means you would be eligible to get National Insurance credits. This is important because the credits would count towards your State Pension.

Fostering for Adoption

You would qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay and Leave if you are fostering for adoption. It would begin from the time when the child comes to live with you.

Foster Carers Training and Development

The local council (or the fostering agency) will carry out a review of foster carers each year. They provide advice, extra training, and support where needed. You would also get regular visits from a supervising social worker.

You can contact Fosterline for further help and support with fostering. They operate a helpline run by FosterTalk (see above).

Note: There is no statutory right to time off work so that you can care for foster children.

TSD Standards for Foster Care

Guidance from the training, support and development standards set out what you should know. It explains what you should be able to do as a foster carer within the first 12 to 18 months.

Different Types of Foster Care

Fostering and Claiming Benefits

Even though you get paid for fostering children it does not usually affect your benefits. So, it would not affect the payment amounts if the money comes from (either):

But, it can affect your benefits if the payments come from elsewhere. An adviser from the organisation paying your benefits will confirm it. You can also use a benefits calculator to check what you might get.

Types of Benefits Fostering Can Affect

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)

You could get Jobseeker's Allowance even while you foster a child. But, you must meet the eligibility criteria and be available for, and actively looking for, work.

As a rule, you would have to work for at least forty (40) hours a week. You can set up certain restrictions on when you would be available, providing:

Note: Speak to your adviser if you need to change the restrictions. You would need to be available for at least forty (40) hours per week while waiting for a foster placement if you have no children of your own.

Income Support

Fostering children and claiming Income Support is also a possibility. But, you would need to attend work-focused interviews every six (6) months or three (3) years. It would depend on your particular situation (e.g. whether you have children of your own).

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

In some cases, you can claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and foster children. But, you may need to attend work-focused interviews. It would depend on your particular circumstances (e.g. whether you are a lone parent).

How to Become a Foster Carer in the United Kingdom