In August 2023, Scottish Government introduced the Scottish Recommended Allowance (SRA) for foster and kinship carers.
Although the policy of providing allowances to foster and kinship carers is not new, having a standard national allowance is a new policy. The introduction of a SRA is in line with the Scottish Government and COSLA’s shared commitment to Keep The Promise. It is intended to achieve a greater degree of consistency and transparency in allowance payments and information.
It will also help further ensure that children in foster and kinship care get the support they need to thrive, and ensure there is parity in the financial support provided to kinship and foster carers, regardless of where they live in Scotland.
Eligibility for the SRA
We have not changed the legislation. Eligibility for the allowance remains the same.
The SRA applies to:
- all foster and kinship carers who are currently in receipt of care allowance
- any future foster and kinship carers as assessed by a local authority within Scotland
Standard Recommended Allowance by age
The weekly allowances, which will be backdated to 1 April 2023, are:
- 0 to 4 year-olds: £168.31
- 5 to 10 year-olds: £195.81
- 11 to 15 year-olds: £195.81
- 16-years-old and over: £268.41
What the SRA covers
There are 16 key components the allowance should cover:
- wear and tear
- hobbies and activities
- pocket money
- insurance and utility bill increases
- daily access to a computer and the internet for homework/course work
- transport costs for the child (for the purpose of attending review meetings, children’s hearings, contact, travel to school, college or other educational facility)
- mobile phone
- holiday costs to cover school holiday activities and family trips
- christmas or other cultural or religious events
Payment of the SRA
The SRA will be paid by local authorities. It will be backdated to 1 April 2023
the Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed that no family should be worse off than at present as a result of the SRA. To make sure of this, the allowance will be the higher of either:
- what is currently paid
- the proposed SRA
The SRA and foster carer’s fee
For foster carers the SRA covers the allowance only.The fee would be in addition to this. The fee amount is decided by each fostering agency.
The SRA and the cost of living
The Scottish Government is committed to maintaining the 2023-2024 levels of support for the SRA allowances and to reviewing the funding implications for future years from 2024-2025.
Calculation of the SRA
The Scottish Government developed the SRA rates for children in kinship and foster care based on various sources. This included independent analysis carried out by Fraser of Allander Institute in 2018. This looked at:
- household expenditure to estimate the cost of a child,
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s work on poverty indicators
- thresholds and local authority information and practice regarding financial provision
The model and supporting principles take a rights-based approach to understanding the needs and characteristics of kinship and foster families. Thistakes into account the differing number of carers and children within households as well as establishing an expenditure level that would secure a reasonable standard of living.
A 50% weighting was added to the cost of a child, to account for the additional costs of a looked after child. This is consistent with research, as well as practice across other parts of the UK and an approach that was advocated by the Review Group and consultation respondents.
These values from 2018 were uprated prior to the SRA commencement in 2023 on a similar basis as used for other payments to households but also taking account of affordability and deliverability.
The implementation of the SRA was originally proposed in 2018 by a working group undertaking a National Review of Care Allowances. This work included a consultation with foster and kinship carers. The Review recommended that the SRA payment rates were broken down into three age groups: 0-4 years; 5-15 years; and 16-17 years. These age bands are comparable to those used in Wales.
The allowances are presented across four categories to mirror the four age categories (0-5, 5-10, 11-15, 16-17) currently used by local authorities. It was decided that presenting the SRA as four categories was more straight forward, as local authorities will not require any alterations to their systems or ways of working. It is also more transparent and easier to understand for caregivers.
The SRA and independent foster agencies
The SRA is specifically an agreement between the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure equity of payment for looked after children across Scotland to foster / kinship carers.
Placements of children by local authorities, with external agencies can be made via the Scotland Excel framework but also by the local authorities' own contracts or occasionally on a spot purchased basis. They are therefore covered by the terms of that contract. Contracts will have a weekly rate inclusive of various costs – including, child’s allowance, fees, management fees and extras. Discussions as to how the SRA is reflected in contracts between local authorities and Independent Care Providers are the responsibility of these two parties.
By their nature, independent, voluntary and private fostering agencies (IVPs) have always been able to decide both the allowance and fee they pay their foster carers.
The responsibility for payment of the allowance to foster carer sits with the IVP, not the local authority.
The SRA and continuing care
Young people leaving care after their sixteenth birthday, and who have been looked after in foster, kinship or residential care are eligible for Continuing Care. This means these young people are eligible to stay with their carers/families up to their 21st birthday, and when they leave their care setting they are then entitled to Aftercare advice, guidance and assistance up to their 26th birthday. This can include (but is not restricted to) support with securing accommodation, education and employment opportunities, and financial support.
The new SRA does not apply to young people receiving continuing care, only to those young people aged 16-18 who remain in care. Work is ongoing to review the support available to care leavers, including the financial support available to them. This is being undertaken as part of the work to Keep The Promise and improve the support available to young people moving on from care into adulthood and more independent living.
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