Tuesday 8 February: Glasgow foster carers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are demonstrating in George Square on Friday 11 February at 11am over Glasgow City Council’s failure to negotiate over its 10-year freeze on child allowances for children in foster care. Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken pulled out of meetings scheduled for 27 January 2022 after foster carers held a local leafleting session in Southside Central.
In advance of the 2022 budget, foster care workers launched the ‘Fairness for Foster Carers’ campaign in December calling on the council to invest in foster care to lessen pressure on public services, boost the local economy and give every child the start they deserve. The budget will be announced on 17 February.
A recent freedom of information request revealed Glasgow City Council spends 2.38 times more per child on privatised foster care placements than it does on local-authority carers. Private placements are on the increase as many local authority foster care workers are being forced out of the sector by poverty pay. Nearly half of the council’s foster care budget is now spent on private foster care agencies that care for only one quarter of the total children.
In a recent communication with the IWGB, Susan Aitken denied responsibility for child allowances, claiming that it is a national matter. Nicola Sturgeon however stated in a letter an IWGB foster carer stating that child allowances are decided by local authorities. Dumfies and Galloway have recently raised child allowances.
60% of foster carers in Scotland report that the child allowances do not cover the full cost of raising them. Investment would improve quality of care and outcomes for young people while saving public money, lessening pressure on other public services and boosting Glasgow’s local economy. Sufficient investment across Scotland could reduce public costs by £875 million per year.
The Fairness for Foster Care campaign has received vocal support from the Scottish Green councillors, Scottish Conservative and Unionist councillors, Larry Sanders, and musician Bobby Gillespie.
Jacqueline McShane, Glasgow Foster Care Worker, says: “Everything is going up at the moment: food, fuel, heating but we haven’t seen our income change in 10 years. There was a time when we could provide extra-curricular activities for foster children who have missed out on these important life opportunities. Now the child allowance fails to cover even the basic costs. I’m having to draw on my husband’s retirement savings just to make ends meet. This just isn’t sustainable. If we don’t see a rise in our incomes, many of us will be forced to move to private agencies which cost the council far more.”
Kenny Millard, Chair of the Foster Care Workers Union (IWGB), says: “There is a crisis in foster care. We are losing experienced carers who are being driven out of the system and replaced by expensive privatised agencies that cost the council more than twice as much per placement. We’ve seen other local authorities take steps to combat the crisis but Glasgow City Council won’t even meet with us. If the council sits down with the IWGB, we are confident that we can find a mutually-beneficial solution that works for foster carers, the children in our care, and the local Glasgow economy.”
Alex Marshall, President (IWGB), says: “It’s disgraceful to see Glasgow City Council shirking responsibility for the child allowances and running away from meetings with foster care workers. Foster carers do invaluable work in our communities but, with the rising cost of living, these cuts are forcing many carers into poverty. If the freeze continues, it will have a lifelong impact on these children and the communities in which they live. The IWGB will continue to fight for the rights of foster carers across the UK who have been punished by a system that forces cuts on experienced carers while handing out millions to extortionate private agencies.”