I READ with interest you recent coverage of the decision, made by Leeds City Council, to increase payments to the city’s foster carers.
For some time my own Conservative Group has been arguing strongly for increased payments to local authority foster carers. Not only do they deserve it because of the magnificent job they do with some of the city’s most challenging young people, but by increasing payments we reduce our reliance on independent fostering providers who charge much higher rates.
We would have introduced an extra £1m into the budget for this financial year to increase fees for foster carers and we would have looked at ways to continue that investment moving forward on an invest to save basis, our plan would have been effective form April 2013. Instead we have a measure to be introduced this October that equates to £0.77m in 2013/14. Not to be sniffed at but really the administration should have been quicker to act on this issue.
In 2013/14 it is estimated that independent foster agency care will cost the Council around £9.58m to care for 252 looked after children, the in house service costs £12.28m to look after an estimated 757 children and young people. Not only that but looked after children costs have generally been increasing in recent years reaching an average of £35,000 per child in 2012/13. The case has been clear for some time, so why the delay?
It is good that the administration is now pursuing a policy that opposition groups have called for over the past 2 years. However, there are still some concerns, the age profile of foster carers in the city is on the high side meaning that we could face retirements in the coming years. It is to be hoped that they react with greater speed to that potential problem than they have to this one which, to be frank, has been staring them in the face for some time.
Councillor Alan Lamb, Shadow Executive Board Member for Children’s Services