Foster care involves looking after a young person who cannot remain with their own parents or guardians. There are many reasons children come into care, but most have had difficult life experiences and require a safe, stable home environment. Fostering literally changes the lives of these children and young people living across the UK and that’s why most people want to do it.
If you are self-assured, have a strong internal sense of what is right and wrong, and you are positive about change when it seems worthwhile, this could be the perfect fit for you.
To become a foster carer you must have a spare bedroom and time to care for a young person. Ideally foster carers will also drive and have a car but this isn’t always needed. After making an enquiry, we set up a consultation call for you to go through some eligibility questions and discuss the ins and outs of fostering in more detail. This usually takes 20-30 minutes.
The main requirements of fostering in the UK are;
- Spare bedroom – every child living in the home must have access to their own bedroom. For example, if there are 2 children already living in the home then you would need bedrooms for both children, plus another spare room for a fostered child
- Citizenship – you must be a British Citizen or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. If you aren’t sure on this, follow the link to check your British citizenship status
- Time to care for a child – do you plan to continue working? How will you balance your work and care commitments? Can you take a young person to/from school, health appointments and professional meetings? These considerations can be easily overlooked but having enough time and availability is vital. Children in care often need to attend many more appointments and meetings than your own children, so make sure you consider this
- Financial stability – our fostering allowances are very generous and reflect the skills & expertise of our families. However, you will not receive an allowance when you are not supporting a young person. Depending on your matching criteria, you could go several weeks or longer without supporting a young person, and you should be financially secure enough to manage this. The more flexible you are with regards to matching, the less likely it is that you will go a prolonged period without caring for a child
- Physically and emotionally well – fostering is tough sometimes and you should be physically and emotionally resilient enough to meet the demands of the role. This is why the support you receive is so important. Read more about the extraordinary support Family Care offer here
- Stability – are you planning to move to a new house, set up your own business and get engaged to your partner of 4-months? OK, so we went a bit far here, but you get the point. These children need stability. They need fostering families and homes that will offer a stable and supportive environment with minimal disruption. If applying as a couple, you should have been living together for at least 12-months. If you’re planning to move home, we can still have a consultation call but it’s unlikely we would move further until you have settled into the new property – probably a month or two following the move
- Commitment – fostering has to work for everyone living in the home, and so everyone must be happy with the idea. Discuss this with your family and make sure you have the support of everyone living in the house. Also, as foster carers you must complete mandatory training every year. This usually involves three to five face-to-face training sessions which take place at our regional offices. Training must be attended by all approved foster carers
- If you foster with us, we cover your travel expenses to attend training and monthly support groups. Our allowances are banded based on your experience and you will move through the bands (A – C) as you complete mandatory training and demonstrate fostering competencies. To reach the highest band (Band C), you must complete a Level 3 Diploma in the Children’s and Young People’s Workforce which is fully funded by us.
Typical fostering allowances vary between £380 - £500 / week for each child in your care. Our allowance is broken down into two parts – a boarding-out fee and a professional fee. The boarding-out fee is paid to cover the daily costs of caring for a young person. The professional fee is a payment made to recognise the skills of the carer and is based on the foster carer’s registration.
Other factors which affect your weekly allowance include the age and needs of a young person, and the type of fostering required. There are several types of fostering to consider depending on your circumstances and preferences.
As well as a generous allowance, carers benefit from a fixed tax exemption of up to £10,000 per year (pro-rata) which is shared equally among approved carers in the home. You also get tax relief for every week (pro-rata) a child is in your care. For children under 11 the tax relief is £200/week per child and for children over 11 it is £250/week.
Stephen has been fostering a 10-year old boy for the whole of the year, and his 16-year old brother for 7 weeks of the year. Stephen will not have to pay tax on the first £22,150 he earns.
Fixed tax exemption = £10,000
Child A – 10 years old (52 x £200) = £10,400
Child B – 16 years old (7 x £250) = £1,750
Total = £22,150
This is a straightforward example of how tax works in fostering, but we are not tax experts and foster carers are classed as self-employed. To help with this, we set you up with a Foster Talk membership for accountancy and tax advice. It is the carer’s responsibility to register themselves as self-employed and pay their own income tax & national insurance. Membership to Foster Talk really helps with this.
If you receive benefits, you can seek advice and further information by visiting the gov.uk website.
You may have other questions which we haven’t covered in this piece. Here is a list of some other frequently asked questions linking to answers with more information;
- Can I foster with pets?
- How long does the assessment process take?
- What’s the difference between fostering and adoption?
- How does the matching process work?
- Will I make a good foster carer?
If you would like to take the next step, you can submit an enquiry below and one of our fostering experts will give you a call. With a shortage of over 8,000 foster carers in the next 12-months alone, you really could make a difference to a young person's life.
Healing Pasts | Building Futures
0800 5 677 677