Should Foster Carers Become Employees?

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.” 


Comments 2

  1. Chris Putman

    It is an interesting analogy comparing fostering with employment. Notwithstanding issues of the minimum wage, working time directives and health & safety, there is a far wider issue as to whether a Foster Carer is deemed to be in full time employment. My own view is, probably, not!
    Couples who take time out to have a child, do so for many reasons but unlikely to be for the financial reward. Likewise, you undertake to being a foster carer not as a job nor a vocation or even as a financially rewarding experience.
    This is an undertaking that has to be one of a more altruistic nature. You are caring for some of the most vulnerable in society. Some are broken, beaten, abused, frightened and probably in care for no other reason than they were victims of circumstances beyond their control. Maybe born in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    Not all can be fixed but some can be helped with patience, guidance, empathy, understanding and more importantly, parenting. More often than not you are attempting to break through barriers of learnt behaviours that have enabled these children to survive outside of a normal family life.
    Yes it’s full time, demanding and can be heartbreaking but then so is having children of your own. Equally, it can be very rewarding but don’t look for a bonus in your bank.
    If what you are looking for in life is a salary, holidays, sickness benefits and a pension then foster caring is not the job for you.
    If however, you feel you can make a difference to a child in care and you have the time, the love and endless patience, then consider fostering. You will be paid a reasonable allowance and there will also be periods of respite. And, with luck, you will have help from a good support network behind you but it is still not a job!
    In the scheme of things, maybe it is best to consider your employment status as “someone who cares.”

  2. Brian Henderson

    Hi Mac

    The interesting point is this. Why did an employment tribunal find that 2 fostercarers where, in law, employed by their fostering agency? To extrapolate from this, could the same finding be made against agency’s through-out the UK. In my view it could. I have prepared a short training course on this matter, part of which is working through the ‘Scottish Case’.

    The reason why the carers claim was successful, contrary to perceived opinion, has noting to do with specialist schemes, income tax or national insurance contributions. Lets have a chat. B

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