Changes to payments anger foster carers

Southend foster carers say they have been left struggling without money following a change in the way they are paid by the council.

Until now fosterer carers have been paid a week in advance but last week, Southend City Council changed its payment system to a week in arrears leaving carers with no cash.

A foster carer, who asked not to be named, said this had caused real hardship to some.

They said: “Southend Council decided to bring in a new financial offer to foster carers with very, very little consultation and a lot of us have lost a significant amount of money that we use to look after the children.

“Today, not a single foster carer got any money regardless of their circumstances. If you’ve got three children you’ve got no money to pay their food and clothes or anything else at all.

“Even if you’ve got a baby, you’ve got nothing. I know many of my colleagues who’ve got small babies and children to look after will be getting nothing.”

They added: “You get a fee to manage your housekeeping and you get an allowance for the children, their pocket money, their clothes, their phone, their food, everything’s stopped.

The foster carer said many had no idea their payments would be delayed but the council disputes this.

Helen Boyd, councillor responsible for children and learning said: “We have changed our payment system, so our in-house foster carers are getting paid for care work they have already done, which is similar to other local authorities. We told all of our foster carers of the change in payment arrangements in May, and reminded them in June, so they have had two months to prepare and make arrangements to cover their finances.

“We value the work our foster carers do for the children of Southend and we hope they can see that this change helps support the improved benefits package we introduced in April 2023. By paying a week in arrears rather than advance, we are able to better manage budgets and in turn, make sure families are properly compensated.”

In 2021 the council made an extra £3 million available for children’s services after revealing it had to send 92 children outside the borough for foster care. In April the council hoped to attract more foster carers by exempting them from council tax.

Advertisement

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter