Landmark Ruling for Family and Friends Carers
In a landmark case with wide ranging implications for all local authorities who pay less to family and friends carers, the Court of Appeal has ruled that kinship foster carers should be entitled to all the support and benefits as unrelated foster carers.
Rebecca Chapman of Ridley & Hall Solicitors, solicitor for the aunt who brought the case explained why the decision was so important:
“Since 2001 family and friends carers should have been paid the basic fostering allowance as unrelated carers. This payment only covers the basic cost of looking after a child. But most local authorities pay their own foster carers significantly more than this basic sum.”
“This can be a very large sum. In this case the kinship carer received around £600 per week to care for three disabled children, whereas an unrelated foster carer would have received over £1200 per week to care for the same children. North Yorkshire pays a premium to foster carers of between £46 to £81.82 per week which family and friends carers cannot receive. Blackburn with Darwen pays an additional £56 per week per child which is not immediately available to family and friends carers.
Kinship carers are now entitled to request the local authority to provide training and access to the fee scheme. Many local authorities operate schemes where unrelated foster carers can apply for extra fees for the children they care for due to their skills or qualifications. Kinship carers now can have access to training to allow them to develop the skills and qualifications in order that they can receive the increased fees.
In the case an aunt was looking after 3 very disabled children, who had previously been cared for by unrelated foster carers. Unfortunately the previous placements broke down due to the demands of the children and Tower Hamlets approached the aunt as a last resort to keep the children together.
The local authority recognised that the care and support provided by the aunt could not be replicated elsewhere but they refused to pay her the same as an unrelated foster carer. She did receive an enhancement on the fostering allowance due to the needs of the children but she was only entitled to half the allowance as she was a kinship carer. Unrelated foster carers would have received the full allowance. Altogether the aunt received around half the amount of money an unrelated foster carer would have received even though she was succeeding to care for the children were previous foster carers had failed.
Initially the aunt took Tower Hamlets to judicial review where the court found that they were wrong to discriminate between kinship carers and unrelated foster carers. Tower Hamlets appealed the decision. The appeal was heard and the judges gave their verdict on the same day. The appeal was dismissed with the detailed reasons to follow.
It was clear that where the Secretary of State provides guidance that there should be equity of provision and entitlement that the guidance should be followed unless there are good reasons for not doing so. The guidance in this case included Family and friends carers: statutory guidance
The aunt said:
“I am really pleased that I am now finally eligible for the same benefits and fees as an unrelated foster carers. This is now much fairer as before I was doing the same job as an unrelated foster carer without the benefits, the only difference was that I succeeded where the other carers did not.”
Rebecca Chapman said:
“It has been a long battle but I am absolutely delighted for my client. This means that she can now be treated equally compared to unrelated foster carer so she should be able to receive the same fees and training. This will have an enormous impact on my client as she will have enough money to be able to continue to care for the three very demanding children.”
It will also have an impact on other local authorities as they will have to make the same fees, rewards and training available to kinship carers. I am already aware of several local authorities who will have to change their policies in light of this decision.”