The issue of whether Foster Carers should be treated as workers by Local Authorities and Fostering Agencies has once become prominent with the current case in Hampshire and a recent case in Scotland.
At Fair Ways we have discussed this issue on a number of occasions and asked our MD, Mac McHugh to provide some views on the issue:
“As both a Foster Carer and the Responsible Individual for a Fostering agency I can understand fully how complex an issue this is. Whilst I fully understand that respite and leave can be huge benefits not only to carers but to the long term stability of foster care placements, I think the issue is far more complex and has far greater implications that Foster Carers simply being treated as workers.
Let’s consider the following questions;
If re-categorised as a worker then we assume all Foster Carers would need to be paid the National Minimum Wage of £7.50 per hour?
Recent Supreme Court rulings have stated that, if there is a prospect of (staff) being woken up and expected to fulfil duties during your sleeping time, then the National Minimum Wage should apply. This would mean that all adult Foster Carers would need to be paid a minimum wage of £65,700 p.a.
Further complications would be added by the fact that the working time directive entitles workers to paid breaks, and also to rest periods between shifts. By implication someone working 24/7 would automatically become in breach of the directive.
If a Foster Carer is a considered a worker, then would this make their family home a place of work, subject to workplace health and safety regulations? Would this then require the imposition of fire escape signs, emergency lighting, separate fire systems and so forth? For these, and other more subtle reasons (such as consuming alcohol whilst at work etc.) it is my personal opinion that full “worker status” is simply not achievable, in any way realistic or even desirable.”