Fife Council will pay out around £7 million for ‘agency’ foster carers this year – more than twice the cost of the service being provided by its own carers.
It’s just one of the increasing burdens on the Council-provided children’s services, which has contributed to a massive overspend of the social work budget.
Councillor Tim Brett, Liberal Democrat group leader, has obtained figures in relation foster care and a number of other services which, he said, demonstrated the “stark financial challenges and pressures facing the social work children’s service”.
The Council has just over 200 foster carers, but that’s not enough for the number of children needing placements, with around 140 young people this year having to be placed in the care of agency foster carers.
The cost of placing a child in Fife Council foster care is an average £24,790 per annum.
The cost of a placement with an agency forster care is an average £50,904.
The use of agency foster carers has increased by over 300 per cent in the last five years, so the Council recently launched a campaign in a bid to recruit more of its own.
Cllr Brett said: “The Council, for some time, has recognised the need to recruit more of its own foster carers.
“I would hope that this would be very successful and that people would be encouraged to come forward and consider this.”
Cllr Brett also highlighted the number of children being looked after outside Fife – figures for this year showed 78 children fell into this category, similar to previous years.
“Placements outside of Fife are more expensive and mean that the child is removed from their local community and contacts,” he said.
“There is also an additional cost in educating the child, so for all these reasons, it is preferrable to look after a child within Fife, if at all possible.”