Posts tagged as: Fostering Advice

Can You Foster with a Criminal Record UK?

At Compass, we look for the potential in all our foster carers. We know that every foster carer is unique, with their own skills and experience to bring to the fostering role.

We’re often asked, ‘can I foster with a criminal record?’. Many people believe that having a criminal record, or living with someone that has a criminal record, will prevent them from being approved as a foster carer. This isn’t the case!

However, while having a criminal record won’t necessarily disqualify you from becoming a foster carer, there are some things we will need to consider during your application process.

Assessing Your Criminal Record

While talking about your criminal record, or the criminal record of someone in your home, may feel daunting – it’s important that you disclose this information as soon as possible when beginning the application process.

Being open and honest with us about your criminal record is very important. Not only does it save time and makes the application process smoother, but it also says a lot about you as a person.

Our assessment process is very thorough, allowing us to really get to know you and what you can bring to the fostering role. During your assessment, we’ll conduct a range of necessary checks and references, including a DBS risk assessment. A DBS check helps us better understand your criminal offence and whether you pose a risk to a foster child, taking into consideration the nature, scale and circumstances of your offence.

Picture: two people doing paperwork.

The Nature of the Crime

The safety and wellbeing of our children and young people is always our top priority. This means that, when it comes to fostering with a criminal record, we need to consider the nature of your criminal offence.

Minor offences should not prevent you from becoming an approved foster carer. However, the law states that any convictions that relate to offences against children, sexual offences or domestic offences will automatically prevent you from fostering.

We will not consider any applicants with a history of serious convictions such as sexual assault, rape, violence, or crimes against children. Unfortunately, if your criminal record reflects any risk to children, you will not be able to continue in the application process.

The Scale and Circumstances of the Crime

For us to get a better idea of what you would be like as a foster carer, we need to look at the full picture. Alongside the nature of your criminal offence, we’ll also consider the scale of offending and the circumstances of the crime.

This means we’ll look at how many offences you have, and whether the crime you committed was an isolated incident or not. We’ll also consider the circumstances and motivation for the crime, as these will also have an impact on our decision.

Picture: a pile of paperwork and forms.

How Long Ago the Crime was Committed

With time comes perspective, and the opportunity for reflection. As part of your assessment process with us, we’ll will take how long ago the crime was committed into consideration, and how you have led your life since.

At Compass Fostering, we appreciate that each of our foster carers bring something different to the fostering role. Many successful foster carers have their own significant or challenging life experiences to draw on – some of which may have brought them into contact with the criminal justice system. Often, these experiences enhance their ability to understand, emphasise and connect the children and young people in their care.

When considering your ability to foster with a criminal record, we’ll also talk to you to ask you how you feel about your offence today. We want to see how you have moved forward from the offence, and the kinds of changes you have made in your life since.

Picture: a person singing a form.

Moving Forward with Your Application

Following the consideration of each of these things, we’ll decide whether we would like to move forward with your fostering application.

The main thing we take into consideration is your ability to care for a child and provide a safe and welcoming environment for them. If we feel confident in your ability to do so, you’ll move forward onto the next step of the assessment process.

You can read more on the UK legislation around fostering with a criminal record here.

Alternatively, if you still have some questions and would like to know more about fostering a child with a criminal, give us a call on 0800 566 8317. To request your free digital brochure about fostering, get in touch with us here.

 


Can You Be a Foster Parent if You’re Single?

At Compass, our foster carers come from a range of different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: a passion for making a real difference to children’s lives.

‘Can you be a single foster parent?’ is one of our most frequently asked questions. Many people are concerned that being single will affect their eligibility to become foster parents, however this is not the case!

If you’re looking to begin your foster journey and are wondering ‘can you foster as a single parent?’, here are a few things to consider!

Meeting The Fostering Criteria

While there’s nothing to say you can’t be single and foster, there are a few key fostering criteria you’ll need to meet in order to become a foster carer with us.

Above all else, we ask that all our applicants are over the age of 21 and have a spare bedroom before getting in touch with us. This is non-negotiable and is part of the UK’s national requirements for fostering, meaning you’ll encounter these basic criteria with all respected fostering agencies.

Alongside these, we also ask that our applicants have permanent leave to remain in the UK, are in good health, and have the time, space and dedication to welcome a child into their home.

As long as you meet these key fostering criteria, it’s likely you’d make a great foster carer – regardless of your relationship status!

Picture: a child and adult cooking together.

Applying To Be a Single Foster Parent

Once you have met our initial criteria and submitted an initial enquiry, you’ll begin our fostering application process.

Our fostering application process is rigorous but being single shouldn’t stop you from applying to become a foster carer – nor will it hinder your application process. We want to be the fostering agency that is never too quick to judge, and we look for the potential in all our applicants.

As a child-focused fostering agency, the safety and wellbeing of our children is our top priority. We know that the role of a foster carer has various responsibilities can be demanding at times, which is why we need to make sure a child or young person will be safe in your care.

Our application process will help give us a better idea of what you would be like as a foster carer, as well as helping you learn more about fostering. As a single person, we’ll need to make sure you have the time, resources, and support system necessary to properly care for a foster child.

Picture: A child and adult playing together.

Fostering As a Single Parent

Fostering is an incredibly rewarding career, offering carers the opportunity to witness first-hand the impact of the work they are doing.

As a single foster carer, you’ll be able to develop strong, personal bonds with the children and young people you care for. They will rely on you as their carer, mentor, parent, and friend – looking to you for support and guidance as they navigate life.

As a single foster carer, your increased flexibility  may also mean you’re able to offer types of fostering that those who foster as a couple cannot offer. For example, you may be able to offer respite care, specialist care or emergency care – helping to provide safety and stability for a child or young person in their time of need.

Picture: a child and adult reading together on the sofa.

Supporting Our Single Foster Carers

Of course, single parent fostering will come with its own unique challenges.

Fostering asks a lot of carers, both socially and emotionally, and not having someone else to share in the responsibilities can be difficult. However, with Compass, we’ll make sure you benefit from 24/7 support from your friendly local team throughout your fostering journey.

“Becoming a foster carer is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Yes, it can be quite challenging at times, especially as a solo carer. But the help and support I receive from Compass is endless. No regrets, best decision ever and I wouldn’t change it for the world”.

Sarah has been a single foster carer with us since March 2021, and says fostering is one of the best things she has ever done.

Our support includes high-quality training, regular support groups, professional guidance and a generous fostering allowance aimed at taking away some of your financial pressures. This comes on top of any other working tax credits, child support or other benefits that you may already receive as a single individual – allowing you to focus your energy on providing excellent care.

Picture: a child and adult hugging and smiling.

Speak To a Single Foster Carer

It’s natural to have some concerns about fostering while single. Becoming a foster carer is a big decision, and not one that should be taken lightly.

At Compass, we know that sometimes the best thing to do is speak to someone with first-hand experience. Our single foster carers know this too, which is why they’re more than happy to speak to potential applicants like yourself!

If you’d like, we’ll put you in touch with one of our single foster carers to talk more about your application. They’ll answer any questions you have, and give you an honest, insightful look into their lives – helping you get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a single foster carer.

If you’d like to speak to one of our single foster carers, or find out more about fostering with Compass, get in touch with us here, or give us a call on 0800 566 8317 to find out more.


Preparing for Foster Care Panel: Fostering Assessment Questions

Our fostering assessment is a thorough process, with various checks and references that help us really get to know our applicants and the type of foster carers they would be.

Whether you’re on our standard foster assessment, or our Fast Track assessment, it’s good to have an idea about the type of questions you’ll be asked in the final step of your assessment: the fostering panel interview.

We’ll make sure you have plenty of time to prepare in the months leading up to your panel date. That being said, it’s good to have an idea about the kind of things you’d like to say and how you would like to present yourself to the panel.

To help, we’ve put together a few fostering panel questions to help you prepare for your panel interview!

A couple talking together and smiling.

“Why Would You Like to Be a Foster Carer?”

At Compass Fostering, the well-being and safety of our children is always our top priority. We know how much of an impact a brilliant foster carer can have on a child, and we want all our foster carers to share our dedication to providing excellent care.

It’s likely you’ll have been asked this question a few times throughout your assessment journey. Perhaps you want a career that makes a difference, or perhaps you or someone you know has had experiences with fostering in the past – whatever your reason, this question will help us get a better understanding of your motives for being a foster carer.

A smiling foster family.

“What Are Your Expectations of Fostering?”

By the time you get to panel, you will have attended various training with us and will have had plenty of time to learn about fostering and everything it involves.

The panel interview helps us get to know you and what you’d be like as a foster carer. That’s why we will want to hear about everything you have learned so far about the role of a foster carer, and how you intend to approach fostering and its various challenges.

Two grandparents with children on the beach.

“What Is Your Support Network Like?”

While thoroughly rewarding, fostering can also be challenging and full-on at times. As well as providing wrap-around support for our foster children, we want to make sure you have an adequate support network surrounding you.

Your support network will provide you with emotional and practical support throughout your fostering journey – from comforting you when you’re feeling low to helping with the school run or doctor’s appointments. Alongside the 24/7 support, expertise, and guidance you’ll receive from Compass, we want to know that there will always be people around you that you can rely on when you need them.

Siblings laughing and playing together.

“How Will Your Family Adapt to Fostering?”

Having a foster child stay come to stay in your family home will bring various changes. Part of your panel assessment will include understanding how your family will react to these changes, and how you intend to deal with them and adapt.

For example, you may already have birth children who will now be required to share their space with another child. In your answer, you might wish to discuss how you will help to build bonds between your biological children and your foster child.

Alternatively, you could be a single applicant without any birth children – in this case, you might talk about the way your broader family members will adapt to your fostering, and the kinds of things they will do to support you throughout.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to know and acknowledge how fostering will affect those around you – both your family members as well as the young person you’ll be caring for.

A group of people in a training session.

“What Did You Think About your Skills to Foster Course?”

Part of our fostering assessments is the Skills to Foster training course. We believe in empowering our carers to develop a full range of skills and professional expertise –  not only to help and support the children they look after but also to enrich and enhance their own lives.

Our three-day Skills to Foster course is an important part of your assessment and will teach you about the types of care that our young people may require and how you can support them. During the training course, you’ll also have the opportunity to mix with other prospective foster carers, all of which will help inform your experience as a foster carer.

Your panel members will be interested to know about what you’ve taken away from the course, your thoughts on our REACH approach, and how the course has shaped your understanding of fostering. You’ll also be required to attend various additional training if you’re approved as a foster carer, so it’s good for us to understand what kind of topics interest you.

While it’s impossible to be fully prepared for your fostering panel, we hope that these examples give you a good idea of the types of questions you might be asked at panel. If you have any concerns or queries about your fostering panel, you should talk to your Assessing Social Worker and they will be happy to help.

You can also check out our fostering FAQ page for a range of useful articles and information on fostering!

If you’re interested in becoming a foster care with Compass, get in touch with us today to request your free digital brochure.


Foster Carer Tax Return, Exemptions & Allowances

For many, filling out tax forms can be puzzling. The endless figures, numbers, phrases, and thresholds can quickly turn a simple task into a chore.

If you’re a foster carer trying to figure out your foster carer tax allowance, you’re not alone! Taxes can be a tricky territory to navigate, with many people wondering – is foster care allowance taxable?

To help, we’ve prepared a guide to help you better understand foster carer tax returns.

Foster carers are required to follow specific tax guidelines and are entitled to unique tax allowances that help reduce their overall tax bills.

Whether you are a new foster carer, a seasoned carer or are thinking about fostering and how your earnings will affect you, this guide will help you get to grips with foster carer taxes.

Do Foster Carers Pay Tax?

So, is foster care money taxable? The answer is yes, but foster carer tax is not quite as straightforward as that.

Foster carers’ allowance is technically taxable as it is considered an income. If and how much tax you pay as a foster carer depends on various factors, including the total amount of fostering payments you receive in a tax year.

However, most foster carers pay little to no tax on their fostering payments. This is thanks to an exclusive tax scheme called Qualifying Care Relief. This scheme means foster carers can receive an amount of their allowance completely tax free, which is why it’s commonly referred to as the foster carers tax allowance.  You can find out more about Qualifying Care Relief further down.

For many foster carers, their fostering allowance is below their tax threshold, meaning they do not have to pay any tax. However, it is important that you register with HMRC, and submit an annual tax return, even if you don’t need to pay tax on your payments.

A picture of a calculator and some tax forms.

Are Foster Carers Self-Employed?

Foster carers are considered self-employed. This means that, as a foster carer, you will need to apply with HMRC for ‘Self-Assessment’ as soon as you have been approved by your fostering agency. This will register you as self-employed.

If you were already registered as self-employed, you do not need to register again. However, we advise you to contact HMRC to let them know you have begun fostering.

HMRC will charge you a penalty if you don’t let them know you are self-employed within six months of the end of the tax year in which you are approved as a carer.  We advise you make HMRC aware you are self-employed as soon as possible to avoid any penalties.

When Should I Submit a Tax Return?

Each year a HMRC foster carer tax return (otherwise known as a Self Assessment tax return) will need to be completed. This declares your total ‘profit’ for the year and any tax you need to pay on it.

As a foster carer, your tax return will include details of your fostering income and any other income you receive throughout the tax year.

A tax year runs from 6th April to the following 5th April. Each year, HMRC will write or email you to inform you that you are required to complete a Self Assessment tax return. The return can be completed by paper (by 3st October) or online (by 31st January).

Make sure you send your tax return in on time. If your tax return is late, HMRC can charge you a penalty.

What Does HMRC Mean By ‘Profit’?

When HMRC refer to ‘profit’, they are referring to the money that you yourself make from fostering. As foster carers are classed as self-employed, you need to keep a record of all the money you receive. This is usually referred to as ‘business income/turnover’.

This includes your regular fostering allowance that is made up of your professional fee for yourself and day to day living allowance for your foster child.

If you earn anything else on top of this – for example, if you become a Carer Recruitment Ambassador, take part in extra earning opportunities or have any other source of income – you will need to declare it as profit.

A person filling out their tax form.

How Does Self Assessment Tax Work?

If you have been employed before, you’ll know your taxes and National Insurance contributions are automatically taken out of your wages each time you are paid.

Self-employment works differently. Instead, you will need to contribute your tax and National Insurance yourself as it will not be taken automatically. As a foster carer that is self-employed, you may have to pay:

  • Income Tax: how much you pay depends on your ‘profit’ you make.
  • Class 2 National Insurance: a set weekly amount, paid twice yearly or monthly by direct debit.
  • Class 4 National Insurance: also depending on how much ‘profit’ you generate. (You won’t pay Class 4 NI if your ‘profit’ is below the threshold).

Class 2 National Insurance contributions will be added to your tax bill if your taxable income from fostering is above a certain amount (£6,356 in 2019/20) or if you pay it voluntarily.

As to Class 4 National Insurance Contributions, you will likely only need to pay this if your annual taxable income is over £8,632. When you use HMRC’s online tax return form, it will figure out how much (if any) Class 4 NI contributions and Income tax you will need to pay.

You are responsible for paying your own National Insurance and Income Tax as a foster parent. But you may not pay Income Tax or NI contributions on all, if any, of the income you earn due to Qualifying Care Relief.

What is Qualifying Care Relief?

The Qualifying Care Relief scheme calculates the tax threshold specifically for the foster carer(s) in one household. Your tax relief amount will depend on several elements specific to your own fostering circumstances. It takes the carers’ total fostering payments into account and determines whether a foster carer needs to pay any tax. Foster carers usually benefit greatly from this scheme as, for many, their total fostering payments are below their tax threshold and therefore, they won’t need to pay any tax.

  • A fixed sum of £10,000 per household (remember: this is not per carer- this is for a full year per household. If you have not been registered as a foster carer for a full tax year this will be calculated out on a pro-rata basis.

(To adjust the figure, times the number of days you’ve been an approved foster carer by £10,000. Then divide by 365, the number of days in a year).
(Divide by 366 during a leap year)

  • A weekly tax relief allowance for each young person you care for (depending on their age):
    – £200 for children under 11 years

– £250 for children aged 11 or over

Each week starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday, a part of a week counts as a full week.

Anything that you earn above this will be taxed. If there is more than one carer in your household, you share this fixed amount.

A person placing money into a piggy bank.

How Can I Work Out if I Need to Pay Tax?

There are two different ways to find out if you need to pay tax. These are the Simplified Method or the Profit Method.

  • The simplified method (most commonly used by foster carers)

If your total care receipts are more than your qualifying amount, you can use the simplified method. This means that you pay tax on your total receipts from caring, minus your qualifying amount.

Once you have done this, you will need to fill in a tax return. In your tax return, you will be able to claim your qualifying foster care relief, as well as include your total receipts and your qualifying amount, on the ‘Self-employment (short)’ pages.

The simplified method is commonly used amongst foster carers and recommended by accountants.

  • The profit method

If your fostering income is over the qualifying amount and you want to use the profit method to calculate out what you owe, you will need to keep receipts for everything you pay for. You need to fill in a tax return and include your receipts and expenses on the ‘Self-employment (full)’ pages. You cannot claim qualifying care relief.

You are advised to seek tax advice to make sure you are claiming for everything correctly.

Please note – Your fostering payments will usually reflect the cost of some of the things you pay for, but you will need to separate what you can claim for and what you cannot.

Fostering allowances are intended to cover costs such as:

  • Household costs (bills)
  • Clothing
  • Travel
  • Food

Two people discussing taxes.

How Do I Find out my Qualifying Amount?

Each foster carer’s qualifying amount will be different, as you will have cared for a different number of children, for differing lengths of time. Check out this foster carer tax return example using the simplified method below.

An Example:

If you are not a foster carer for a full year, your £10,000 fixed amount will change:

Tim started fostering on 28th August, the number of days from 28th August to 5th April is 221. His fixed amount will be:

221 (days fostering) x £10,000 (fixed amount) ÷ 365 (days in the year) = £6,055 (if your answer gives a long decimal round it up to the next £).

You will then add this total to your weekly amount you receive for the children in your care.

Tim had Emma, aged 8 in his care for five days, from Sunday until Wednesday. This is counted as two full weeks, so will be £400.

He also has a long-term placement, Dean a 14-year-old with him from 28th August.

Tim’s total payment from foster care this year was £12,880.

Tim’s qualifying amount would be

Fixed amount: £6,055

Dean (32 x £250): £8,000

Emma (2 x £200): £400

Total qualifying amount

£14,455

Therefore, Tim would not need to pay any tax or class 4 National Insurance, as his income from fostering is below the threshold.

How Do I Pay my Tax?

Once you have registered with HMRC as self-employed, and once you have submitted your Self Assessment tax return, you will have a few options for paying your tax.

You will be able to pay via online or telephone baking, direct debit card transfer, or by cheque in the post.

A pile of pound coins.

Further resources:

Taxes can feel baffling, but remember you are not alone in feeling this way!

At Compass we provide wrap-around support for our foster carers with generous fostering allowances, and advice and guidance. If you have any questions about becoming a foster carer with us, please get in touch by phone on 0800 566 8317 or online here.

 This guidance was last updated in July 2022. Compass Fostering are not qualified tax advisors. Should anything written here be in contradiction of latest guidance and allowances from HMRC then the HMRC guidance should be considered correct.

 


Fostering while Renting: Is it Possible, and What Should You Consider?

One of our key fostering criteria is that all our foster carers must have a spare bedroom to foster. But what about those who live in rented homes? Can you foster if you rent a house?

It is important to know that as long as you have a spare bedroom available, whether or not you own your home will not directly preventing you from becoming a foster carer. However, there will be a few things that we – and you – need to take into consideration when it comes to fostering while renting.

Read on to learn more about fostering while renting, including how it may impact your eligibility as a foster carer and your overall fostering experience.

Fostering while renting

While fostering is possible if you rent your home, there are a few key things we would need to consider before approving you as a foster carer.

A form requiring a Landlord signature.

Landlord permission

One of the most important things we need to obtain is permission from your landlord or housing association. We will contact your landlord or housing association during the early stages of your Assessment process to make sure they are comfortable with you fostering on the property premises.

However, we recommend you contact you landlord prior to this to discuss your interest in fostering. This is to make sure they are happy with the idea of you fostering before you begin our Assessment process, as we cannot approve applicant’s whose landlords or housing associations do not grant them permission to foster.

A caregiver and child looking at a laptop together.

The importance of stability

Many of our foster children come from unstable backgrounds, and may have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, prior to coming into care. Above all else, our priority is ensuring that our children are given a safe, supportive, and stable environment within which they can thrive.

This means that, for renters who are considering fostering, you must be able to prove that you can provide a stable and consistent environment for a child. You should be planning to remain in your current home, should have no rent arrears, and should not be at risk of eviction.

A man and a woman laughing with with a child.

Lodgers or roommates

If you’re applying to foster while renting alongside a lodger or roommate, we also need to include them in the Assessment process, depending on their living situation.

If your lodger or roommate shares any communal spaces with you, such as the kitchen, living room or bathroom, they will be considered a fixed part of the fostering household, and will require their own individual background checks. Although they will not be required to be actively involved in your fostering journey, your roommate or lodger will need to consent to a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) and LA (Local Authority) check, to ensure they are suitable to be around a child.

If your lodger or roommate resides in an annex or live in accommodation that is separate to the house, checks may not be required. However, this is assessed on a case-by-case basis, as we understand that every situation is unique and requires a personalised approach.

If you have lodgers or roommates that stay at the property on a more temporary basis – meaning you’re likely to have multiple different people staying with you over a period of time – then this may also affect your chances of fostering. Each new lodger or roommate would also need to be assessed, which can make things complicated.

As we’ve mentioned, foster children need stability, consistency, and routine in order to thrive. Temporary lodgers or roommates might disrupt this and could have a negative impact on the child, which is why, if you have temporary roommates or lodgers, it’s likely you will not be approved to foster.

A woman taking a photo of a man and a child laughing together.

Suitability of the property

As with everything in the fostering process, the needs and requirements of our children are always placed at the forefront of the decision-making process.

To be considered for fostering, your accommodation will need to be suitable and meet the criteria for fostering. This includes having a spare bedroom that is spacious enough for the child to comfortably live in, as foster children cannot share bedrooms.

During your fostering assessment with us, we will conduct a thorough assessment of your home and living environment to make sure it suitable for a child. This includes finding out whether or not you own any pets, if you have a partner or if you’re single, and if you wish to continue working while fostering.

So, can you be a foster parent if you rent?

At Compass, we pride ourselves on seeing the potential in all our applicants. As long as you can provide a stable, loving and secure home for a foster child, it’s likely you’d make a great foster carer – regardless of whether you rent or own your home.

If you have any more questions about fostering, you can check out our FAQ page here. You can also find out more about the fostering process by getting in touch with us here!

 


Can Foster Children Share a Bedroom?

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you might be wondering if foster children can share a bedroom.

One of our key fostering criteria is that all foster carers must have a spare room to be approved to foster. But why is this the case, and are there any potential exceptions to this rule?

Read on to learn more about the fostering regulations on bedroom sharing, and whether children sharing bedrooms is allowed with fostering.

A child reading to himself.

Why Do Foster Children Need Their Own Room?

Having a space of their own is important for all foster children. They need a place to feel safe and secure, and where they can retreat when a new situation or environment becomes overwhelming.

Children often come into the foster care system having experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect. They may deal with attachment issues or exhibit some challenging behaviour as a result, and will be further stressed by having to deal with a new environment and being removed from their family. Because of this, foster children need space of their own to process their feelings.

Having their own room gives a foster child a place to be alone – and, unlike locations outside the home, you can be close at hand to offer support and reassurance. Having separate rooms will also help mitigate sibling rivalry and conflict with other children, such as birth children, in the home.

Two sisters in their room together.

Can Foster Siblings Share a Room?

When it comes to foster children having their own bedroom, there is one potential exception to this rule: same sex siblings.

This is subject to each individual local authority, and we will always consider what scenario will be the least disruptive for the children. A scenario in which this might be considered is if if two young siblings have always shared a room. In this situation, it may well be better for them to continue sharing a bedroom in a new house to help them settle better.

The bedroom in question must be big enough to comfortably accommodate both children, affording each their own space and privacy. To share a room, siblings must be the same sex, and most local authorities will only allow sharing up to a certain age (usually around 9 to 11).

Deborah and Brian, two of our foster carers, have experience fostering siblings who share a bedroom. Deborah and Brian foster two twin sisters aged 7, and a third sister aged 3. “Before they came to live with us, they were used to all three of them sharing a bedroom,” says Deborah.

Now the twins share a room with bunk beds, while the youngest has her own space. “The older girls love the fact that their little sister isn’t in their room with them, and she loves that she has her own room – so everyone is happy.”

“Being three girls in the house, they have a lot of toys and clothes and everything,” says Deborah about her foster children. “They’re good girls and they tidy up, so it’s not as bad as it could be.”

“And wow, they have changed our lives! They’ve filled our house and lives with fun, laughter, cuddles and drama, and given us insight into the world through their eyes, which is full of resilience, hope, joy and finding fun in everything they do.”

A child's bedroom.

What Are the Fostering Regulations on Bedroom Sharing?

According to the UK Minimum Standards for Fostering, a foster home must be able to comfortably accommodate all who live there – this means that communal spaces need to be big enough for the whole family to live comfortably.

The foster care bedroom requirements UK state that each child over the age of three (including birth children) should have their own bedroom. If that’s not possible, each child sharing a room must have their own area within the bedroom.

The national minimum standards emphasise the fact that foster children need privacy, security and safety in order for them to be considered well-cared for. Having their own bedroom helps to facilitate this.

While there isn’t a specific law to prevent people fostering without a spare room, we think you’ll find that most agencies (including us) will not approve any foster carers who cannot meet our basic criteria. We only allow room sharing for foster siblings in special circumstances – meaning that all our carers need to have a spare room before they can start fostering with us.

Have more questions about foster care? Check out our FAQ page or visit our Fostering Infocentre.

You can also find out more about becoming a foster carer with Compass by getting touch with us here.

 


Helping You Help Them: Foster Care Discounts & Benefits

Fostering a young person in need is one of the most important and selfless things an individual can do. Our foster carers enrich the lives of our young people, providing them with new experiences and opportunities that improve their outcomes.

However, it’s no secret that the UK is currently undergoing a cost-of-living crisis, with food prices, fuel rates and energy bills soaring. Raising a child in the UK comes with various financial implications; that’s why we pay all our foster carers a fostering allowance that far exceeds minimum rates.

But during these trying times, we want to make sure that all our foster carers are making the most of the discounts and benefits available to them. We want to ensure our foster carers still feel able to give our young people the level of care and enrichment they deserve.

That’s why we’ve collected a list of foster parent benefits and foster family discounts that you can use to help ease the strain on your wallet. These benefits and discounts come on top of the support and benefits we offer at Compass Fostering.

A family enjoying time at an amusement park.

What Discounts Can Foster Carers Claim?

These brilliant discounts offer a range of exclusive discounts and free things for foster families, making life easier for those who spend their time caring for vulnerable young people.

Blue Light Card

If you have family or friends who work in the NHS, armed forces or emergency services, you’ve likely heard of the Blue Light Card.

The Blue Light card provides those working in these sectors with a wide range of online and in-store discounts. Working with small and large companies across the UK, they saved their members over £100 million in total last year.

The good news for foster carers is that, as of the beginning of 2022, foster carers are now also eligible for a free Blue Light Card! The Blue Light card has a range of discounted or free things for foster parents.

Register for a Blue Light Card here.

Max Card

Like the Blue Light Card, the Max Card is another scheme offering your foster family discounts.

Aimed at foster families and families with children who have additional needs, this card is excellent for foster carers looking to make the most of amusement parks and family attractions. Max Card discounts can be used to gain free or discounted admission to venues across the UK.

This card makes family days out more financially accessible for foster families, helping you to continue enriching your foster child’s life, without worrying about cost.

Find out more about the Max Card here.

Discounts For Carers

This online website offers a whole range of foster care discounts and free things for foster parents, including special discounts and deals on shopping, travel, motoring, finance, utilities, and insurance deals.

Discounts for Carers offers discounts from nationwide and independent businesses that wish to support foster carers and the brilliant work that they do.

Check out the full range of discounts on their website here.

A family laughing together and having fun.

What Benefits Can Foster Carers Claim?

Alongside discounts, there is a range of foster care benefits schemes available in the UK to help support foster carers. Below are some of the benefits schemes that you may be able to claim as a foster carer.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a government funded monthly payment scheme that helps low-income or struggling individuals cover their living costs. For foster carers who may be struggling financially, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit to support you.

The key criteria for Universal Credit eligibility are:

  • You must live in the UK
  • You must be aged over 18 (which, as a foster carer, you will be anyway!)
  • You must be under the State Pension, which you can find out
  • You must have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments.

It’s important to note that if you are considering applying for Universal Credit as a foster carer, you should ignore your fostering allowance when working out your income. Fostering allowances are not considered income.

You can find out more about fostering allowance and benefits UK here. You can find out more about Universal Credit here.

Council Tax Discount

Paying council tax can be costly. Fortunately, as a foster carer, it’s possible you may be eligible for a discount in your Council Tax if you can prove you’re on low income or claiming benefits.

Local authorities are responsible for deciding how they will support vulnerable groups when it comes to the payment of Council Tax. Some local authorities may offer discounts on Council Tax, with some reducing bills by up to 100%.

You can apply for a council tax discount regardless of whether you rent or own your home. In order to do so, you need to contact your local council to find what kind of foster carer council tax discounts they offer.

Find your local council here.

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a government benefit paid to children and young people under the age of 16 who have additional care or mobility needs. This is usually because of ill health or a disability. DLA is paid on top of any other benefits, income, or tax credits that you may receive.

If you are looking after a foster child who is under 16 and has additional care requirements because of their disability or health, you may be able to claim DLA. DLA is paid to the main foster carer to help enhance the foster child’s life, ensuring they can lead a rich and fulfilling life.

You can find out more about DLA eligibility here.

Using a Benefits Calculator

Understanding which benefits you are and aren’t eligible for as a foster carer can be challenging. It can be hard to know which eligibility criteria you meet, and how these might be impacted by your role as a foster carer.

One of the easiest ways to find out which benefits you’re eligible for is by using a benefits calculator for foster carers.

Benefits calculators are free to use and confidential. They work out which benefits you might be entitled to by asking you questions about your employment status, income earnings, health, children, and general lifestyle. They also ask questions about your status as a foster carer.

Benefits calculators provide information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax reduction, Carers Allowance and Universal Credit, as well as how benefits are affected by your work.

We recommend using one of these benefits calculators:

A woman with her hand on a young girl's shoulder, comforting her.

There’s no denying that times are tough right now; many families across the UK are feeling financial pressure. Fortunately, being aware of the discounts and benefits available to foster carers should go some way in helping to relieve these pressures.

At Compass, we want all our foster carers to feel supported and looked-after throughout their fostering journey with us. If you’re struggling during this time, please approach your Supervising Social Worker with any concerns you have. They will be able to advise you on the best next steps to take.

If you’re interested in making a difference to the life of a vulnerable young person by becoming a foster carer with us, please get in touch with us here.


Do You Need a Driving License to Foster in the UK?

We’re often asked whether you need a driver’s license to be a foster parent.

While it isn’t compulsory for many fostering agencies, it is often strongly advised. Different agencies often have different policies regarding needing a driving license as a foster carer.

With Compass, there are no specific restrictions around driving licenses when it comes to our approval criteria. This means that, with Compass, not having a UK driving license will not directly hinder you in becoming a foster carer.

However, there are a few things that we will need to take into consideration if you apply to foster with us. These are also a few things for you to consider if you’re thinking about applying to become a foster carer without a license.

A man driving with two children in the back seat.

Reasons For Not Holding a License

One of the things we would need to take into consideration is your reason for not holding a driving license.

If you don’t hold a driving license simply out of preference, then this is fine. However, if there is another reason that you don’t hold a driving license, then you would need to make us aware of this immediately.

This includes any driving bans, license suspensions or other circumstances that have led to your not being able to own a driving license. While it is possible to foster with a criminal record, some offences may prevent you from fostering, and we would need to consider this during your assessment.A family using public transport.

Alternative Transport

If you are unable to drive, another thing that we would take into consideration is your proximity to public transport.

If you live in an area that requires you to walk significant distances to gain access to public transport, then this may pose a problem. Your local public transport also needs to be able to provide you with easy access in and out of local villages and neighbouring towns and cities.

If this is not possible, we would also ask whether you would be happy to utilise a Taxi service as a last resort – although this is not ideal, as the wellbeing of our children must always be the priority.

A person taking notes on a clipboard.

Why Do Foster Carers Need Transport?

While it’s not impossible to foster without a driving license, the reality is that it does make things much more difficult for both foster carers and foster children.

This is because there are several meetings and responsibilities involved in the role of a foster carer. These include training, meetings with social workers, contact time with the children’s birth family, medical appointments, support groups or counselling sessions. Our children also need to be transported to school and should be able to access extracurricular activities if necessary.

So, while it may be possible to meet these requirements through use of public transport or Taxi services, being able to drive makes achieving these expectations far easier.

A man and child in a car.

So, Do You Need a Driving License to Foster?

To summarise, while it’s not impossible to foster without a driving license, you must be able to prove to us that you will be able to meet the needs of the foster child and the responsibilities of your role.

The wellbeing of our children is our top priority, so we need to make sure that the standard of care you are able to provide is not impacted by your not driving.

It is always important that you are completely honest throughout your application to foster with us. This includes being transparent about any criminal records you may have, and the reality of your daily transport situation.

If you have more questions about fostering, you can check out our Fostering FAQ’s here.

Alternatively, please get in touch with us for some more information on fostering and the application process.

 


Is There An Age Limit for Fostering?

There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding age when it comes to becoming a foster carer.

Many people believe that there is an age limit for foster parents. In fact, one of our most frequently asked questions is ‘how old can foster parents be?’

We want everyone to know that there is no upper age limit for fostering. As long as you have the dedication, time and space to welcome a child into your home, it’s likely you’d make a brilliant foster parent.

If you’re looking to begin your fostering journey and are wondering ‘is there an age limit for fostering a child?’ You might even have concerns about how age could affect the fostering process, here are a few things to consider!

Fostering Criteria Age Limits

Unfortunately, lots of people don’t apply to foster as they think they will be too old. However, as aforementioned, there is no age limit for fostering in the UK. We just need to make sure you have a stable living situation, have some valuable transferrable experience and a strong support network.

The only age-related restriction associated with fostering is the minimum age of 21 years old to become a foster carer. This is a legal, national requirement for foster care and is part of our fostering criteria.

An older man teaching a young boy to ride a bike.

With Age Comes Experience

At Compass, our foster carers come a variety of different backgrounds and life experiences. As a fostering agency, we want to be never too quick to judge. We understand that with age comes experience, and welcome applicants of all ages.

Many older people make fantastic foster carers, as they have the life experience to help children with more complex needs or behaviours. We have carers that are in their late 50s, 60s or 70s fostering with us, making a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people every day.

Many of our carers have not had their own children but want to help a young person in need. Others have had their own children, grandchildren and (sometimes) even great grandchildren! Often, our older foster parents have had their children grow up and move out, giving them the additional space and opportunity to foster.

Ultimately, we believe that additional life experience brings understanding, empathy, and valuable life lessons.

Our dedicated Family Finding Teams expertly match our foster carers with children and young people who suit their individual skillsets and experience. Our carers also have access to high-quality training and 24/7 wrap-around support. This ensures the best outcomes possible for everyone involved!

An older woman helping a young teen with her work.

The Fostering Medical

During your fostering assessment with us, we will ask you to have a fostering medical with your GP. Young or old, this is a necessary requirement that every prospective carer will be asked to have.

This is so a doctor can determine whether you are fit and healthy enough to be a foster parent, as fostering can require a lot of energy!

This assessment takes into consideration your physical and mental health, lifestyle, and anything you would need to keep in mind- like family medical history. This way we’ll know how best to support you, too.

If you think you could make a difference to the life of a child, regardless of your age, please get in touch with us!

Alternatively, if you’re wondering what the process of becoming a foster parent might look like, check out our five step guide here.


What Are The UK National Minimum Standards for Foster Care?

If you’re looking at becoming a foster carer, you might have heard of the national minimum standards for fostering. But what do the UK national standards for foster care mean, and how will they affect you as a foster carer?

The fostering national minimum standards are set out by the UK Government. They provide important guidelines for foster services, local authorities and foster carers. Their main aim is to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children in foster care.

They might seem complicated, but don’t worry – the concepts underpinning them are simple to understand!

At Compass, we’re dedicated to ensuring our foster carers are supported throughout their fostering journey with us. We’ll guide you through every step of the way, including understanding the national minimum standards for fostering!

What Is the National Minimum Standards Document?

The National Minimum Standards is a document from the UK Government, outlining the minimum fostering standards for the UK. It’s a very thorough and long document, but it’s main aim is ensuring that children’s welfare, safety, and needs are always at the centre of their care.

The document forms a regulatory framework for all those involved in fostering. There are 31 standards in total making up this framework.

These 31 standards are split into two sections: child focused standards and standards of fostering service.
A young girl running through a field.

The Child Focused Standards

The child focused standards are child-focused, meaning they prioritise the child’s welfare and happiness. These standards provide important guidelines on how foster carers can support their child’s development, ensuring that all the child’s needs are met.

Standards 1-12 of this section include considering the child’s wishes (and the wishes of significant people in their life) in all decisions related to their care.

The standards outline the importance of promoting a positive self-image for foster children, encouraging positive behaviour and relationships through excellent care, and supporting children in continuing to have contact with their birth families when it’s safe to do so.

These standards also cover some important issues like safeguarding children, promoting good health and educational attainment, and giving children proper guidance through their time being fostered and leaving care.
A happy young boy.

The Standards of Fostering Service

The Standards of Fostering Service are more focused on setting out the standards of care for fostering that a fostering service must provide.

These standards keep the foster child’s best interests at the centre of the decision-making processes, and aim to support the child and their carers as much as possible.

Fostering services have a duty to provide the best fostering home possible for all children in their care. They must run their organisations safely and efficiently and keep detailed records giving a good overview of every child’s history.

They must also pay their carers fairly and on time, and provide support and training for carers and staff members alike.

Fostering services are also responsible for making sure that everyone who works within their organisation is suitable to work with children.
A young smiling girl.

What Do The Standards Mean for Foster Carers?

The good news for carers is that the fostering minimum standards are designed to help both foster carers and foster children have the best experience possible. This means they work to ensure the best outcome possible for everyone involved.

The requirements for foster carers come down to some simple fostering criteria that all foster carers must meet. Most importantly, they must have a spare room, and they must be able to provide a safe environment where the child in their care is supported and accepted.

If you’re in the process of becoming a foster carer, the UK National Standards for foster care can give you some guidance on what to expect but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by them.

At Compass Fostering, our friendly team is on hand to support you every step of the way – and not just because the standards say we have to! We believe that giving you the help you need to become the best carer possible will lead to the best outcomes for the children in our care.

If you have more questions about fostering or think you could make a difference to the life of a vulnerable child, get in touch with us to find out more! Or you can read more here about our fast track assessments.

You can also check out our Fostering FAQ’s here.