By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor
Slough Borough Council has announced it it will cut the fees it pays its foster carers by up to 50 per cent, effective from Monday 15 November.
In a compromise to the original proposals, foster carers with children currently in their care will initially see their pay cut by 25 per cent, dropping to a 50 per cent cut when the first placement ends. All other foster carers will see their fee cut in half from Monday.
Commenting on the news Raina Sheridan, deputy chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: "We are very disappointed about Slough's decision to drastically cut pay for foster carers. While we acknowledge the council has made an important compromise in the longer term nothing has changed. This is still bad news.
"Those who foster for Slough were required to give up other jobs to become foster carers and now their household income will be slashed while their outgoings remain the same. They have to carry out the same tasks on far less pay. How many directors of children's services would continue to do their jobs with a cut in salary like this?"
In September proposals to cut all foster carer pay in half were discussed by the council. It agreed to introduce a 50 per cent cut for all new foster carers then with the decision on existing carers postponed until last night to allow time for consultation. However, it seems that consultation has not taken place.
Sheridan continued: "We all know that local authorities are under increasing financial pressure, but making decisions about foster carers without due consultation or negotiation is unfair, and damaging to them, their families and most importantly the children in their care.
"Decisions about the futures of children in care should not be made on financial grounds, but this is clearly what is happening here. Councillors are the corporate parents for children in their care, and should make decisions affecting these children as if they were their own."
In response, Councillor Natasa Pantelic, Commissioner for Education & Children at Slough Borough Council said that the local authority remains one of the more generous authorities in the area.
"The reduction in fees was proposed to deal with the unprecedented cuts passed down to us by the government, nonetheless we believe that reducing the fees to a sustainable level, in line with many other authorities is a fairer deal for all of the towns residents."
She continued: "As part of the new package of foster fees, we will be giving some foster carers the freedom to work whereas this was previously discouraged by the authority. This way foster carers can supplement their income from the authority with additional paid employment, and we believe that this policy change, combined with the new scheme of allowances, represents a fair deal for foster carers."
The council claims that since the fees were reduced it has received ten applications from foster carers, which it says is reassurance that the new fees still provide adequate reimbursement for those wishing to care for looked after children.