Northern Ireland Government announces three per cent uplift to foster care allowance rates
The Northern Ireland Government last week announced a three per cent uplift to allowance rates for foster carers which cover the costs of caring for children and young people. While the uplift is welcome, it falls far short of the 12.43 per cent uplift announced in England earlier this year and rates across the rest of the UK.
In comparison, the Scottish Government announced a new rate for allowances for foster carers last week and the Welsh Government a 5.5 per cent uplift in January.
The Fostering Network is disappointed that despite the current cost of living and foster carer recruitment crisis, the Northern Ireland Government has chosen not to keep pace with the rest of the UK and reflect inflation in this year’s increase. The minimum allowance in Northern Ireland is now £10 - £20 less per week across all age brackets than that set by other governments across the UK.
The rates of children coming into care and referrals to children’s services are higher in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK, while the need for foster carers is increasing as services are struggling to meet needs.
The new weekly fostering allowances for the current financial year, which will be backdated to 1 April 2023, are:
- 0- to-4-year-olds: £145
- 5-to-10-year-olds: £161
- 11-to-15-year-olds: £182
- 16-years-old and over: £213
More information on fostering allowances, known as the Model Scheme can be found on the Department of Health's website.
The recommended allowance levels set out in Northern Ireland, as well as across the UK, are still much below what The Fostering Network has recently recommended in its Cost of Fostering campaign which covers the full cost of caring for a child using up to date evidence.
The report states it costs £215 per week to raise a child in foster care aged 0-4 years, £258 per week for a child aged 5-10 years and £324 for a child aged over 11 years.
Low rates of allowances can result in foster carers having to subsidise the cost of care and children in foster care may not be able to access the opportunities they desperately need to thrive or recover from past trauma.
Kathleen Toner, director of Northern Ireland at The Fostering Network said:
‘Families across Northern Ireland are facing immense pressures associated with the cost-of-living crisis. This is alongside recent budget announcements to further reduce the range of services available to children and families and the number of children coming into care continuing to increase.
‘The ongoing pressures in children’s services and current political vacuum are having a real-life impact on foster carers and the children and young people they care for. Not enough people are coming forward to be foster carers – we need them to meet the increasing needs and numbers of children who require care.
‘Foster carers play a vital role in supporting vulnerable children and young people. The Government needs to ensure they are receiving allowances which cover the full cost of providing this care and that rates in Northern Ireland are in line with those received in the rest of the UK. To do anything less, is to fail children.’