Financial inducements offered to foster carers to encourage transfer to another agency with children in placement
(first published 25 February 2015; updated 29 January 2018, 28 March 2018)
A small number of fostering agencies, both local authorities and independent fostering providers (IFPs), have for several years offered a cash inducement to existing foster carers to transfer to them from another agency. However, we believe that this practice is now rare, in part as there is little evidence that it works in longer term, but also because of the strength of feeling in independent fostering sector. NAFP makes the following statement in relation to this:
- In keeping with the NAFP code of conduct, we believe that our members should not offer financial inducements to encourage carers to transfer provider. The offering of inducements is not in the best interests of the children who our members support.
- It is for individual providers to choose how best to recruit and retain the carers that are the best fit for their agency and that will enable them to pursue their mission. This is best undertaken in such a way that it is not potentially detrimental to children, foster carers, local authorities or other agencies, and that it supports a positive, child-centred approach.
- It is in the best interests of children that providers add to the number and choice of carers available, rather than encourage existing carers to move between providers. This will mean there is a greater likelihood that a child will be placed with the carer that is right for them.
- It is recognised that financial reward is generally not, and nor should it be, the most important factor for foster carers when choosing an agency. It is, though, an understandably significant factor for many, in common with other remunerated caring roles.
- Foster carers and agencies should make every effort to resolve any differences in opinion or disagreements before a transfer is considered. In some cases, this is not possible and it is then legitimate for carers to seek to transfer to a different agency.
- Whenever a carer transfers with children in placement, even with prior negotiation, there will be some level of uncertainty, no matter how small, about the levels and kind of support offered by the new agency until the carer has settled in. This has the potential to be unsettling for children in placement.
- Where financial inducements are offered by some agencies to encourage existing carers to transfer, there is a risk that eventually all providers may have to offer this kind of incentive to transfer in order to retain carers. This could nullify the impact of this strategy, as well as mean that more funds are diverted from investment that impacts directly on the quality of placements.
- Where marketing communications seem to focus largely on financial inducements, this can give the appearance that agencies are mostly interested in finance, rather than the well-being of children in care. We do not believe that this is true for the overwhelming majority of agencies. This negative perception can, however, impact disproportionately on the independent sector. The independent sector does and should continue to uphold high standards of business practice.
NAFP will continue to support the transfer protocol for foster carers across the UK and act as a broker to arbitrate where there is no consensus on an issue.