The Director of Children and Families submitted a report which presented recommendations for providing an uplift in the weekly fees and maintenance allowances paid to Leeds foster carers to ensure that cost-of-living increases did not disadvantage and impact negatively upon Leeds foster carers. The report also set out the proposed amendments and revisions to the foster carers finance policy which had been refreshed to address inequities in payment arrangements and to establish better certainty of payments in different circumstances.
In presenting the key points of the report, the Executive Member highlighted the vital role played by foster carers in Leeds, emphasised the importance of ensuring that the Authority remained competitive in this field to retain and recruit foster carers and noted that such finance arrangements had not been reviewed since 2014. Given the budget pressure that this proposal would create, it was acknowledged that directorate-wide work would continue to identify other budget savings.
In considering the report, the Board discussed a Member’s comments regarding the levels of revised fee arrangements proposed to be paid to a foster carer for looking after a third and any subsequent children, and also regarding whether there was potential for such reviews of the finance arrangements to be undertaken more frequently.
In discussing the role of the private sector care providers in this field, and the high costs often associated with them, Members reiterated the crucial role played by the Council’s foster carers, and the need to ensure that the Council remained competitive in this field to retain and recruit foster carers.
Responding to a Member’s enquiry, clarification was provided on the reasons for the financial pressure which had emerged in relation to costs associated with in-house foster carer provision, which was due to a change in the mix of skilled carers, when compared to what had been budgeted for. In addition, it was emphasised that all Looked After Children required skilled care, and as such the Authority would always look to encourage carers to continue to develop their skills in this area.
(a) That the recommendation and associated funding for a 7% increase of maintenance allowances paid to Leeds foster carers, as detailed within the submitted report, be approved, and that approval be given to the uplift being implemented retrospectively, from the 1st April 2022;
(b) That the recommendation and associated funding for a 5% increase for the fee element paid to Leeds foster carers, to be implemented retrospectively from the 1st April 2022, as detailed within the submitted report, be approved;
(c) That the costs associated with the implementation of updated finance polices regarding costs associated with caring for Children Looked After by Leeds City Council and also the support arrangements for Leeds foster carers, be approved;
(d) That it be noted that the associated costs arising from the resolutions above are greater than budgeted, with it also being noted that whilst the Children and Families directorate will draw up action plans to identify other savings to offset this, there is a risk that reserves may need to be used if other savings cannot be identified.