Nicola spent her early life in foster care, moving from family to family because she was difficult to handle. She finally settled with a foster family, and they developed a lifelong bond. She's now a foster carer.
Mike used to be a policeman and his wife Alison used to be a paramedic. They’ve changed careers and are now foster carers.
These are just 2 examples, but they demonstrate how foster carers come from vastly different backgrounds and have overcome different challenges in life. Here's what they have in common:
They want to use their life experience to help others
They want to help vulnerable children fulfil their potential
You should think of fostering as a career, and those 3 points make up the basic job description.
But as you would with any job, you need to think about finances. It costs money to raise children – to clothe them, feed them and encourage them to take up hobbies and interests. Think about driving them to rugby practice or the cinema. These costs add up.
The purpose of this guide is to make it easy to understand the finances of fostering, so you can make an informed decision about becoming a foster carer. If you have any questions about this guide – or simply want to talk through what you’re thinking, please call us on 0845 074 0076 or email [email protected].
Foster carer payments are complicated. In this section we explain how they work and then give you examples so you can see sample figures. If you have questions or would like more detail, please contact us.
We pay you weekly, and the amount is based on how experienced you are and who you foster. Your weekly payment is made up of 2 parts:
The more experience you have, the bigger your reward payment. Likewise, if you care for our more challenging placements – such as mothers and babies or children with special needs – you get a larger payment.
You receive a weekly payment, per child, ranging from £300 to £650.
There are various factors that determine exactly what you get – we look at your experience, the child’s age and if there are any complex care needs. We discuss the financials relating to each placement at the outset, so you know exactly what you’ll receive.
Sophie and Carley are in a same-sex relationship and live in Liverpool. Sophie, who works as a fitness instructor, is 29; Carley, who is a bank manager at a high street bank, is 37. They’ve been together for 7 years and thought about adoption before deciding to become foster carers.
They live in a 3-bedroom terraced property and were approved 18 months ago to care for 2 children aged 11 to 18. Over the last 12 months they’ve had the following placements:
Because they've been fostering for more than 12 months and completed training, Sophie and Carley are classed as intermediate foster carers and receive a higher reward payment than David and Kelly in Scenario 2.
They earned £27,280 from fostering during the year.
We're here for any questions you might have. It's just an informal chat at this stage. One of our team can give you a call any time you like.
David works in IT as a contractor for a large online retailer. His partner Kelly is a teacher who works as the deputy head in an inner city academy. They have 2 teenage daughters aged 16 and 18 and live in a 4-bedroom semidetached house in Manchester.
Kelly has been thinking about fostering for some time, but both David and Kelly wanted their own children to be at college/university first. Last year they were approved as foster carers for 2 placements for children aged 11 to 18. They had the following placements:
As newly approved foster carers, David and Kelly earned £20,672 from fostering Adam and Rachel during the year.
Jerome and Rita from Stoke-on-Trent are in their 40s and have been married for 25 years. Rita is a stay-at-home mum and Jerome works as a self-employed builder. They have 2 grown-up children: Leanne (22 years old) is at university and Michael (24 years old) lives and works in Birmingham. They live on a farmhouse Jerome refurbished 8 years ago, and they have 5 bedrooms and 5 acres of land.
Jerome and Rita were approved to foster 2 children or a sibling group of 3 children aged 11 to 18. During the last 52 weeks they’ve had the following placements:
Jerome and Rita are classed as enhanced foster carers, so receive higher reward payments than Sophie and Carley and David and Kelly.
They earned £59,280 from fostering Nickisha, Nathaniel and Marcus during the year.
One way fostering is different than most other jobs is that the government gives you tax relief on what you earn from fostering
This means you don't have to pay income tax on it, so you get to keep more of your income than you would if you earned the same amount in a different job.
Calculating your tax relief is complicated (it involves tax, so it’s not surprising), so we always recommend you speak with an accountant. At the time of writing, here are the tax relief basics.
Here's what that actually means
Let’s say you look after 2 children aged 12 and 13 for a year
Weeks per year 52
Annual amount of tax-free fostering income: £26,000
Plus, your fixed amount of tax-free income: £10,000
Total tax-free fostering income for the year: £36,000
This means you can earn £36,000 from fostering without having to pay income tax. Based on the current 20% basic tax rate, you're £5,000 better off.
A note on your tax-free personal allowance
Most UK taxpayers get a personal allowance – a portion of income they don't have to pay tax on. For the 2017/2018 tax year, this is £11,500 (this will be £11,850 for the 2018/2019 tax year)
As a foster carer, you get your personal allowance on top of your fostering tax relief. That means you don't pay tax on the first £11,500 you earn from other sources, for example another job. Thus, based on the example above, you have:
In fact, support and training are even more important than the money to having a fulfilling life as a foster carer. In addition to the income you earn, you should consider these when you’re deciding whether to become a foster carer.
Support – We’re with you every step of the way
Being a foster carer is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, but it’s not easy. You’ll be providing much-needed love and support to young people in difficult situations. To make the most impact, you need the right support.
We never expect foster carers to cope alone, which is why we always emphasise that we're with you every step of the way.
We’re here to help you from the very beginning with regular visits, excellent out-of-hours contact and the opportunity to make friends with other foster carers.
Social worker support
Once you're approved, you'll be assigned a supervising social worker who will be your first port of call for guidance, advice and reassurance. They will play a vital role in matching you with a child and supporting you throughout the placement.
Buddy & mentoring
We organise a buddy and mentor scheme that gives new foster carers individual support from more experienced foster carers. We arrange for all our experienced foster carers to be trained in mentoring, and help them to attain nationally recognised qualifications in the subject. The scheme is often the start of longlasting friendships.
You'll also be able to contact a senior social worker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – we're only ever a phone call away. If you have a problem in your personal life or with a child in care, we'll be there to offer help. For example, if you're having trouble getting a child to sleep at bedtime, a support worker can come and help you in your home.
The foster carers' forum is held every month. It's an opportunity for foster carers to meet up, discuss fostering issues and learn from each other’s experiences. The forum also plays a key role in organising regular group activities we hold for our foster carers and the children in their care.
We give you 2 weeks of paid respite each year and can arrange regular breaks at other times.
Personal development plan
Foster carers come from all different backgrounds. Some have degrees, some never finished school. Some have worked with children before, and some are changing career completely. When you foster with us, you and your social worker will create an individual development plan. We identify what skills you already have and where you can enhance your skills. You can make suggestions about what training you want to do, and we'll help you do it as long as it's relevant to your fostering role.
Foster carers come from all different backgrounds. Some have degrees, some never finished school. Some have worked with children before, and some are changing career completely.
When you foster with us, you and your social worker will create an individual development plan. We Identify what skills you already have and where you can enhance your skills.
You can make suggestions about what training you want to do, and we’ll help you do it as long as it’s relevant to your fostering role.
As you complete training and gain skills and experience, you’re eligible for higher reward payments.
We also encourage and support all foster carers who want to achieve nationally recognised qualifications in care-related subjects. These qualifications can lead to future careers in areas such as social care, nursing and teaching.
We receive lots of questions about fostering. If your question is not answered below, please get in touch for an informal chat. We're happy to answer any questions you might have.
Can I work and foster?
There’s some flexibility if you foster a schoolage child – depending on the young person’s needs, you may be in a position to continue working part time or full time.
As a rule, especially during the early stages of any fostering placement, you must be available to attend meetings and support groups with social workers and other foster carers.
If you want to continue working full time and are interested in becoming a foster carer, there are a variety of short-term and respite placements available.
Am I employed by Perpetual?
No. As a foster carer you’re self-employed, which means you will have to file a tax return.
Do all fostering agencies pay the same?
No. Local authorities and fostering agencies all offer different reward payments (and different levels of support and training). The payments in this guide are specific to Perpetual, so contact the local authority or other agency you’re considering for their information.
When do I start getting paid?
You start receiving payment when you accept your first placement.
Can I still claim benefits as a foster carer?
When you foster with Perpetual, your fostering income doesn’t usually affect the amount of means-tested benefit you get.
However, you can’t generally claim jobseeker’s allowance or unemployment benefit because fostering counts as a job.
You will need to speak to the office that manages your benefits to discuss your specific situation. We always do our utmost to ensure that your financial situation is not an obstacle to becoming a fantastic foster carer.
What happens if I care for more than one child?
You’re paid based on the number of children you care for, so if you care for 2 children you get a maintenance allowance and reward payment for each.
So, if you’re a new foster carer looking after 2 children, you get paid £600- £760 per week – which equals £31,200- £39,520 per year in total.
Do I get paid if I don’t have a placement?
We have so many children in need of foster families that you won’t often have gaps if you’re flexible about the type of placement.
If you’ve had at least one placement with us you continue to get your reward payment between placements. You get the full reward payment if you’ve been matched and are waiting for the child to move in. If there’s no forthcoming placement we pay you 75% of the reward payment for up to 6 weeks.
There are some terms and conditions (for example, you don’t get paid if you turn down more than 2 placements) – contact us to discuss the details
If you're interested in learning more about fostering, the next step is to get in touch.
You can call us on 0845 074 0076, send us an email or request a call back using the form below.
This is an informal chat and there’s no obligation to proceed. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and talk things through, so you can decide if fostering is right for you.
Perpetual is an independent fostering agency that's supported more than 1,000 carers and children over more than 20 years.
We're committed to supporting the children we place and helping them fulfil their potential. Our foster families and children build such successful relationships because we're committed to meeting everyone's emotional and professional needs.
Whether you’re just thinking about becoming a foster carer or have many years' experience, we'll be with you every step of the way.
If you would like to study our guide as a PDF, you can download it to view offline at your leisure.