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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.

Telephone: 0800 040 7675
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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 2022 to 2023

Region Babies (0 to 2) Pre-Primary (3 to 4) Primary (5 to 10) Age 11 to 15 Age 16 to 17
London £159 £162 £181 £206 £240
Areas in the South East £152 £157 £173 £198 £231
The Rest of England £137 £141 £156 £177 £207

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

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.

  • A child under 11: Tax relief is £200 per child (per week)
  • A child over 11: Tax relief is £250 per child (per week)

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

  • Emergency: Would be when a child or children need somewhere safe to stay for only a few nights.
  • Short-term: Carers would be looking after children for a few weeks or a few months. It relates to times when there is a need to make further plans for the future of the child.
  • Short breaks: It would apply to disabled children or those with special needs or behavioural difficulties. They may need to stay for a while with a family while their parents (or regular foster carers) can take a break.
  • Remand: Can happen when young people get remanded by a court and need looking after by a specially-trained foster carer.
  • Fostering for Adoption: Often, babies or small children stay with foster carers who then go on to adopt them.
  • Long-term: Some children need to live away from their birth family but do not want adopting. Instead, they might go into long-term foster care until they reach adulthood.
  • Family and friends (kinship): The council will have information about children who go to live with someone that they already know. It is usually a family member or a ‘kinship’ carer.
  • Specialist therapeutic: This type of foster carer cares for children and young people with very complex needs. The same would apply for children with a challenging behaviour.

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):

  • A local council authority
  • A private organisation on behalf of the local council
  • A voluntary organisation

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:

  • There are some reasonable prospects of you being able to secure employment.
  • You are available to work for as many hours each week that your caring responsibilities allow (it must be at least sixteen hours per week).

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