Ban fostering care ’Golden Hellos’, LGA says

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to ban the use of ‘golden hellos’ by independent fostering agencies attempting to encourage foster carers away from local authorities.

The LGA highlighted that a small number of independent agencies were profiting at the expense of councils who can be charged twice the usual rate of an in-house placement and see their own experienced carers enticed away by commercial agencies.

The group maintained that while independent fostering agencies are indeed a valuable part of the fostering system, providing necessary support to families and children, a minority of agencies have been offering considerable sums to carers to switch employers.

Counsillor Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: “Offering ‘golden hellos' to entice foster carers away from councils does nothing to increase the number of carers available in our increasingly over-stretched system, and nothing to improve the lives of the children and young people who need our help the most. It all too often forces councils to pay higher fees for fostering services, which only serves to cut the amount of money available to help all children.

"The fact that just eight commercial fostering agencies can make more than £40 million in profits in one year is completely unacceptable. Profits of that level simply cannot be justified at a time when the public sector is facing enormous financial strain and is having to cut services to make ends meet. That much money could pay for the care of more than 1,200 of society's most vulnerable children, be invested in improved support for foster carers or fund an extensive recruitment campaign to help find some of the 9,000 new carers needed to meet current demand.

Watts added: “Many local authorities are already at the limit of their in-house fostering provision, so will be relying more and more on independent agencies to look after some of these children and young people. It is essential that steps are taken to make sure the whole system is working well together so that councils can make full use of the range of placements available, looking after the best interests of children rather than the commercial interests of a small number of agencies."

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