As Glasgow City Council begins deliberations over its 2022 budget to be announced in February, local foster care workers with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are calling on them to redress its 10 year freeze to the child’s allowance which has impoverished some of Glasgow’s most vulnerable children and was revealed via a Freedom of Information Request. This launches the Fairness for Foster Carers campaign for more rights and protections for Glasgow foster carers and the children in their care.
After inflation, the freeze equates to a 23.12 percent cut in the foster child allowance, leaving many foster carers struggling to subsidise costs of care themselves. In many cases this is not possible as pay has also been frozen for 13 years, resulting in a 30 percent real pay cut.
Exploitation has contributed to a severe shortage of foster care workers, forcing more than 500 Glasgow children to be relocated out of area in 2020-2021 and forcing Glasgow City Council to turn increasingly to more expensive private sector fostering agencies. In contrast, 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.
A 2017 national survey revealed 52 percent of foster care workers earn less than £4 per hour after the child’s allowance for costs, with almost a quarter earning less than £1.70 per hour. A 2016 study found that in comparison with nursing and firefighting, foster carers had similar levels of secondary traumatic stress and even higher rates of burnout. Foster care workers are also are denied basic workers’ rights like a guaranteed minimum wage, sick pay and protections against unlawful discrimination.
Kenny Millard, chair, Foster Care Workers’ Branch (IWGB), says: “For a decade now Glasgow City Council has failed this city’s most vulnerable children and now dedicated foster carers are being driven either into poverty or out of service all together because they simply cannot afford to continue subsidising that failure. An investment in Glasgow’s children is an investment in its future. By ending the freeze Glasgow City Council can help tackle the crisis in foster care, lessen pressure on public services, boost the local economy and give every child in Glasgow the start they deserve here, where they belong.”
Jacqueline McShane, a Glasgow-based foster care worker currently caring for three children under five, says: “Being a foster carer is not the same as being a parent. You take in the most vulnerable children in our society with complex support needs that require specialist, round-the-clock care. But the work we do is so undervalued and we have been pushed to breaking point.”
Notes to Editors
The IWGB acts as secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Foster Care Work and in 2020 won a landmark victory for foster care workers’ rights when the Edinburgh Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that foster carers Jimmy and Christine Johnstone should have been classified as employees by Glasgow City Council and so were entitled to sick pay, holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and protections for whistleblowing. Their legal battle began when the pair were left in fear for their lives and that of the young person in their care after raising urgent safeguarding concerns, only to be told that the council had no duty of care towards their safety because they were not employees.
In April 2021 the IWGB established in the Court of Appeal that all foster carers have the right to unionise and are to be classified as workers for the purposes of Article 11 (Freedom of Association) of the Human Rights Act. However, the vast majority are still not classed as professional workers and are consequently denied many basic workers’ rights. 8 in 10 Scottish foster care workers are women and like many forms of reproductive labour traditionally carried out by women, foster care work remains systematically undervalued.
The Independent Care review established by Nicola Sturgeon has recommended a complete overhaul of the existing system, which is reproducing poverty and harm for care-experienced children and their foster families. Under the current system, exploitation and precarious working conditions have also resulted in poor retention and a national shortage of foster carers.