Updated: Thursday, 13th August 2020 @ 11:08am

Housing Benefit cuts are making it difficult for foster parents to take in children, claims Wigan MP

Housing Benefit cuts are making it difficult for foster parents to take in children, claims Wigan MP

By Lauren Hirst

Foster parents are being discouraged from taking in children due to government disincentives, claimed a Wigan MP this week.

Lisa Nandy MP said that despite a desperate need for carers across the country, state changes to Housing Benefit was making it more difficult to foster.

It has been estimated that fostering services need to recruit a further 7,100 foster families in the next 12 months to keep up with the growing number of children in need of a home.

At a time when the numbers of children in the care of the state are at a 15-year high, the Shadow Children’s Minister said: “I believe that foster carers need more and more consistent, support.  For too long the system has been run on good will and provision widely varies between local authorities.

“Ministers should be doing more to encourage foster carers to come forward and instead they are providing disincentives.

“I am particularly concerned by the recent changes to Housing Benefit, which will mean that foster carers may lose their benefits as foster children ‘will not count’ for the purposes of the spare bedroom tax.”

Miss Nandy’s growing concern follows a report produced by the Fostering Network about how the failure of foster carers to make day-to-day decisions for the children in their care is denying these children a full and proper experience of childhood.

It has been revealed that one in five foster parents are not allowed to decide if a child can get their haircut and a third of foster parents cannot give permission for a child to stay over with a friend.

Instead foster carers are forced to check with social workers who must then seek the approval of a senior manager who may not know the child or even the foster carer, leading to unnecessary delay.

As a result fostered children often miss out on crucial childhood experiences.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive at the Fostering Network, said: “The system trusts foster carers to provide some very vulnerable children with a safe and stable home, but it doesn’t trust them to get their hair cut.”

“Foster carers make these types of decisions for their own children all the time and they feel undervalued and undermined when they can’t do the same for fostered children.”

Mr Tapsfield called the current system 'ridiculous' after one girl was unable to go on a school trip because it took 16 weeks for the local authority to give permission.

He said: “Local authorities should see delegating more authority to foster carers as a positive step as it will free up time for social workers and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.”

On any one day there are more than 59,000 children living with more than 45,000 foster families across the UK.

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