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Local authorities’ financial support of foster carers must not discriminate against family and friends

Fostering Network welcomes Court of Appeal judgment

The Fostering Network has welcomed a Court of Appeal ruling that local authorities in England may not discriminate against family and friends foster carers in the financial support they provide in line with requirements previously published by the Government.

Dismissing an appeal by the local authority in X (on the application of R) v Lodon Borough of Tower Hamlets [2013] EWCA Civ 904, the court ruled that the fact of being a family and friends foster carer must not be a defining factor in determining the level of payments made to a foster carer. The ruling means that local authorities must ensure that their policies for the payment of allowances and fees to foster carers do not put family and friends foster carers at a disadvantage.

Local authorities may have a range of payment schemes and criteria for paying higher fees or allowances, but the criteria must be the same for all foster carers. This requirement is set out in the existing statutory guidance covering family and friends care and fostering services, and the National Minimum Standards for fostering services.

Raina Sheridan, deputy chief executive of the Fostering Network, said:

"Edward Timpson MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for children and families, recently wrote to all directors and lead members for children's services reminding them of their requirement to publish a family and friends care policy. Payments to family and friends foster carers is one of the matters which must be addressed in these policies.

"Family and friends foster carers provide homes to nearly 15 per cent of all children placed with foster carers in England. They can provide long term stability for children, in the same way that a long term foster placement could, and as such should receive the same support, financial or otherwise, as any other foster carer who would otherwise be caring for those children.

"We sincerely hope that the Government recognises that as local authorities, who haven't already complied with the statutory guidance, begin to implement policies ensuring that family and friends foster carers aren't disadvantaged and that this needs to be adequately funded."

The judgment can be read here.