Big incentives boost for county's foster carers

A unique package has been launched of benefits and perks for foster carers in Bucks.

All councils offer some benefits to foster carers. But in the face of ever-increasing costs for children’s social care, Buckinghamshire Council is taking a proactive approach in a bid to encourage more people to come forward and consider fostering.

Incentives include a 100% refund on council tax, free, countywide bus travel, free leisure passes, access to a bigger waste bin.

The package has been carefully and thoughtfully put together in co-operation with current foster carers in order to help make their lives easier. It also reflects the invaluable role foster carers play in supporting children in care and the council’s appreciation for all that they do.

Full details of the benefits package:

* A retrospective council tax allowance to cover 100% of their bill;
* Free parking in council car parks and country parks;
* Free bus travel for foster carers and the children for whom they care, within their chosen travel zone in Bucks;
* Free membership to a chosen council leisure centre and access to family swimming and soft play;
* Free access to Buckinghamshire Country Parks events and activities;
* Offer of an enlarged bin, free green waste collections and two free bulky waste collections per year in recognition of the additional demand within fostering families;
* An electronic device to help manage admin tasks;
* Free family annual pass to the Discover Bucks Museum and Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery;
* Free family theatre tickets.

Bucks is one of only a handful in the country, and the first in the local area, to offer a full refund on council tax for those eligible. Combined with the other benefits, the new package will be offered to existing eligible foster carers as well as new recruits.

Anita Cranmer, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services and education said: ‘In addition to our existing highly competitive financial allowances, round-the-clock support and the specialist training we provide, these new benefits create a tailor-made package to show our carers how much we appreciate and value everything they do.

‘We have listened to their requests and looked to develop a bespoke range of perks that will make a real difference in their everyday lives.’

Encouraging more Bucks residents to become foster carers has multiple benefits. It is better for foster children to stay local to home and using ‘in-house’ Buckinghamshire Council foster carers is also more cost effective for the council.

Ms Cranmer said: ‘We have many children who need a safe and loving foster home.

‘If we are unable to find one locally, we are left with no choice but to place these children with carers from external fostering agencies, which can mean moving further away and losing contact with friends and their community. We know that the best outcome for children of all ages is to continue to live close to home and so we want to recruit more foster carers to join our fantastic fostering community.

‘Fostering can be such a rewarding experience and people from all backgrounds are welcome. Here at Buckinghamshire Council, we truly value and care for our foster carers which is why we have worked so hard to develop this unique package of benefits which we hope will encourage even more people to consider becoming foster carers.’

As part of the council’s celebration of national Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 13 to 26 May, it will be hosting a series of pop-up events around the county, as well as a special in-person information session on Thursday 23 May from 6pm-8pm.

Info:
For full details of the events and to find out more about how to Foster with Bucks, including the new range of benefits for foster carers, visit the website: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/foster-care-fortnight