Welcoming children and young people into your home can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Foster care can have a transformative effect on the lives of foster children, helping them heal, learn, and grow in a safe environment.
Yet, the idea of fostering can also seem a little daunting. While rewarding, being a foster parent also comes with its challenges, and over 73% of our foster carers said they thought about fostering for more than a year before applying.
Choosing to become a foster carer is a big decision, with plenty to consider along the way. But Compass are here to answer anything you might want to know during your deciding process.
Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Foster Parent
The first step in your fostering journey should include a lot of research about foster care and the various fostering agencies available to you. But alongside gathering plenty of information on fostering, what kinds of questions should you be asking yourself?
In this guide, we’re looking at the things to know before becoming a foster parent, including the kinds of factors you should take into consideration before making any decisions.
1. Do I Meet the Fostering Criteria?
Before you even begin to consider fostering, it’s important to make sure you meet the fostering criteria. Foster parents come from a range of backgrounds, with varying life experiences and skillsets. At Compass, we try to see the potential in everyone.
However, there are a few key criteria that we ask all our foster carers to meet before submitting an application. Some of our key criteria for fostering include being over the age of 21 years old and having a spare bedroom. If you do not meet these criteria, then it is unlikely you will be accepted as a fostering applicant.
2. Am I Prepared for the Assessment Process?
To be approved as a foster carer, you will have to go through something known as the fostering assessment. Assessment helps fostering agencies get an understanding of what you would be like as a foster carer, as well as ensuring that any children placed in your care will be happy and safe.
Whether you’re prepared to go through the assessment process is important. This process can be time consuming – taking between 3-6 months, depending on your availability and how quickly your checks and references can be completed. It’s also a very personal process, as much of the assessment requires us to look into your past and speak with various people you’ve met throughout your life.
One of our foster carers, Terri, said: ‘what I wish I knew before becoming a foster parent is that the assessment delves into every aspect of your life and it’s a very emotional journey. However, Compass was very supportive throughout – and there was always somebody to talk to.’
3. How Will Fostering Impact My Family?
Fostering can have an impact on not just yourself, but your family too. Having a vulnerable child or young person in your care means sharing your family home with them.
The first few months can be an adjustment period. Any birth children you have will have to learn to share their space, toys and parents with other children. While, long term, welcoming a foster child into your home can be beneficial for everyone, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll navigate those first few months with your family.
Julie and Neil have been fostering with us for a few years now. When they first began, they were concerned about the impact fostering would have on their birth children. However, Julie told us that though her kids ‘have had to adapt to the fact (she) might not be around for a few hours, they’ve ‘adapted brilliantly’ and both Julie and Neil ‘can see how much (their) birth children have got out of it.’
4. Do I Have a Strong Support Network?
One of the most important things to know about fostering a child is that it can be stressful at times. Providing care for vulnerable children and young people who have had adverse experiences requires a lot of time and patience.
That’s why it’s essential that foster carers have a dedicated support network surrounding them that they can lean on during tougher times. This includes family, friends – and fellow foster carers. After all, no one knows the ups and downs of fostering quite like another foster parent.
At Compass, we understand how important it is to support our carers to continue doing what they do. We regularly organise support groups for our foster carers to meet, connect and draw on each other’s experiences. Once you’re approved, be sure to participate in any support groups – as these will help you begin building links with other foster families.
5. Do I Have the Time to Foster?
Another of the most important things to know before fostering a child is that fostering can sometimes be demanding timewise. While it is possible to continue working alongside fostering, being a foster carer is an in-depth role which requires flexibility.
Foster children cannot be in full-time day-care, nor should they be spending each of their mornings and afternoons in preschool and after school care. You’ll need to be able to attend meetings, drop them off at school in the morning and pick them up, as well as taking them to any appointments they have, or any contact time with their family.
Consider your current responsibilities in your day-to-day life, and how these might affect your availability when it comes to foster a child. The safety and wellbeing of the foster child should always remain a priority, so it’s good to think about how you’ll be able to meet their needs on a daily basis.
6. Can I Stick Around When the Going Gets Tough?
Many foster children come into care having experienced trauma like abuse or neglect. As a result, they might act out or behave in a challenging way, like swearing or being aggressive or destructive.
If you’re wondering what to know before becoming a foster parent, consider how you’ll cope when a foster child might be displaying behaviour that challenges you. Will you be able to remain calm? Can you continue to love and care for them, regardless?
In these situations, patience and understanding are essential. Sometimes referred to as ‘stickability’, foster parents need to have a certain level of resilience. Foster children need security and stability to thrive, allowing them to form healthy attachments and positive relationships.
At Compass, we give our carers all the necessary support and training to know how to respond therapeutically in these situations with the help of our REACH approach. As our foster carer Haley says, ‘you have to be prepared for anything. But, when a child says they love you, when a month or two ago they wouldn’t even acknowledge you – that makes it all worth it.’
7. Will I Be Able to Say Goodbye?
There are lots of different types of fostering. Some fostering arrangements last only a few days, while some can last anywhere between a few weeks to a year. However, unlike adoption, fostering is not a permanent arrangement.
No matter how long your foster child is with you, the truth is they will one day move on – whether it be into a different care arrangement, back to their family (once any issues have been resolved), or on to independent living. Consider how you’ll navigate these feelings, and the kinds of things you might need to prepare yourself for.
After all, forming strong, trusting attachments is what fostering is all about. It’s natural that you’ll get attached to the children and young people in your care. Some birth parents, adoptive parents or other foster carers allow past foster carers to maintain a relationship with the child once they have moved on – but this is not a given.
Goodbyes are never easy but are a necessary part of being a foster carer. As foster carer Mark says, ‘there are some sad times, like when a foster child moves on. But seeing them blossom is what keeps us from giving up.’
8. Do I Have a Lot of Love to Give?
Fostering can be challenging at times – which is why it’s crucial that foster carers have a lot of love to give. People foster for different reasons, but most carers share the same goal: to provide children and young people with the love, care and support they need to succeed.
Foster carers have the unique gift of sharing in some of the most important moments in a foster child’s life. From their first words spoken, to their first proper birthday party, to decorating their first Christmas tree – foster parents support children in learning to trust others and celebrate their achievements.
For our foster carers Mark and Nick, one of their most memorable experiences so far has been seeing one of their foster son graduate from university: ‘having seen the children grow from strength to strength and achieve awards for everything they put their minds to is reward enough for us.’
Having a lot of love to give is one of (if not the) most valuable traits that a foster parent can have. As Mark and Nick say, ‘you don’t just open your home when fostering. You open your heart, your mind, and a whole new way of life for all involved.’
As with most big decisions, deciding to become a foster carer will take lots of time and plenty of consideration. However, if you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the questions above, it’s likely you’d make a brilliant foster carer!
At Compass, we understand that becoming a foster carer is a lengthy process. You’ll may still have questions about fostering – and we’re happy to answer them! Take a look at our Fostering FAQ’s or get in touch with a member of our team to find out more about fostering with Compass.
If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, you’ll probably have plenty of questions– like how long does the fostering process take?
On average, it takes between three to six months to become approved as foster carer. Or, if you’re on our fast-track assessment process, the average approval time is around 16 weeks. How long the process takes depends on a range of factors, including your availability and how long each step in your assessment takes.
At Compass, we know that choosing to begin your fostering journey is a big decision. With so much to consider, it can feel overwhelming at times. That’s why, in this article, we’re looking at one of our most frequently asked questions: how long does it take to be a foster parent?
We’ll cover the various steps involved in the assessment process and how long each one takes, giving you a clear breakdown of how your time will be spent, and why the process takes the time that it does.
Your Initial Enquiry: 24 Hours
The first step in the road to becoming a foster carer is submitting an initial enquiry. This lets us know that you’re interested in fostering and would like some more information on the subject.
Following your initial enquiry, we’ll get in touch with you within 24 hours to have an informal chat about your motivations for fostering and answer any questions you might have.
Your Initial Home Visit: 48 Hours
Following your initial enquiry, one of our Assessing Social Workers will get in contact with you within 48 hours. They’ll work with you to find a time for your Initial Visit; this will take place either virtually or face-to-face, if you’d prefer.
Initial Visit’s provide you with the opportunity to find out more about fostering with Compass, while also letting us to get to know a little bit about you. You’ll be able to ask any further questions you have, as well as showing us what you can bring to the fostering role.
Your DBS Check: Approx 8 Weeks
An enhanced DBS Check is an essential part of our fostering assessment process. This check looks at any convictions someone may have, including whether they’re barred from working with vulnerable groups, like children.
If there is anyone living in your home that is 18 years old or over, they will also need to have a DBS check to ensure that our children and young people will be safe living in your care.
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks can take varying amounts of time to process. According to Mind UK, they usually take around 8 weeks – but how fast they are processed can depend on the area you live in and the details you provide. We make sure to get your DBS Check started as soon as possible, to make sure we allow for any length of time it may take.
Your Fostering Medical: 1-6 Months
While there is no upper age limit to fostering, we need to make sure you’re fit and healthy to become a foster carer. This doesn’t mean you have to be an athlete! But, fostering can be demanding at times, which is why all our foster carers undergo a Fostering Medical as part of their assessment.
How long this takes depends on your availability and the availability of your GP. During the medical your GP will look at things like your health background and family medical history, alongside a physical examination and some general questions about your lifestyle, including whether you smoke and how much alcohol you consume. While smoking won’t necessarily prevent you from becoming a foster carer, factors like these will have an impact on the type of fostering you can offer.
Once your fostering medical is complete, your GP will pass it on to our Compass Medical Advisors. These are individuals with an extensive knowledge of fostering; they’ll review your medical information and deem whether they believe you are ‘fit to foster!’
Your Home Visits: 3-6 Months
During your fostering assessment, you will also be allocated an Assessing Social Worker whose job it is to learn more about you and your individual situation. They’ll talk to you about your life experiences, personal relationships, support network, future plans, experience with child-care, understanding of fostering – and much more.
We understand this part of the process can feel invasive, but we’ll do our best to make you feel comfortable and at ease throughout. It’s important to remember why we need this information; to ensure our children and young people will be safe and well cared for in your home.
Like your fostering medical, how long this part of the process takes again depends on your availability, as well as the availability of your Assessing Social Worker. Generally, your Assessing Social Worker will make between 8 to 10 visits in total, getting to know your home environment and helping you fill out any necessary paperwork.
Skills to Foster Training: 3 Days
During your assessment, we’ll also sign you up for our comprehensive ‘Skills to Foster’ training course. Our Skills to Foster training course equips applicant foster carers with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to welcome their first foster child into their home.
Skills to Foster is a mandatory part of your assessment process and takes 3 days to complete in total. Led by one of our experienced Social Workers, a qualified Compass trainer and some local Compass foster parents, Skills to Foster has been designed to help prepare foster carers for the challenges and rewards that fostering can bring.
Not only will you benefit from an introduction into the world of fostering, you’ll also be able to meet fellow fostering applicants like yourself – giving you the opportunity to begin building your local fostering network.
Your Checks and References: 3 – 6 Months
When you first come into assessment with us, we’ll ask you to fill out a ‘Reference and Chronology’ form. This asks for the details of any references we can contact to help us build a picture of you and what you’ll be like as a foster carer.
Once we’ve received your form back, we can begin the checks and references part of your assessment – a process which can vary in length depending on how quickly your references get back to us. This involves getting in touch with some of the people close to you, as well as your current and past employers and other people who have got to know you. This helps us better understand you, as well as ensuring we can properly safeguard the child in our care.
Your Fostering Panel: 1 Day
Once all the above steps are completed, the final stage in your journey to becoming a foster carer is your Panel Day. We’ll give you a date for your panel during the early stages of your assessment with us, giving you plenty of time to talk with your Assessing Social Worker and prepare for your panel.
In total, the panel interview will take no more than a few hours and will likely take place virtually over Microsoft Teams. During this time, you’ll sit down with a panel of industry experts and care-experienced individuals to talk about your experience during the assessment process and your application to become a foster carer.
Once this part of the fostering panel is completed, they’ll adjourn to discuss your assessment and make a recommendation about your suitability to foster. You’ll then be invited back into the meeting to hear the outcome of their decision. All in all, this process should take no longer than a day!
So, how long does it take to be a foster parent? Well – with so many moving parts, the length of the process can vary greatly.
At Compass, we always aim to get you through the assessment process in a timely manner, so that you can begin transforming lives as soon as possible.
However, as always, the safety and wellbeing of our children and young people is our top priority – which is why we never sacrifice the thoroughness of our assessment to save time.
If you’ve got questions about becoming a foster carer with Compass, you can check out our Fostering FAQ page, or get in touch with a member of our team to begin your fostering journey today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
- HMCR has a handy online guide that takes you through each tax element for foster carers, step by step.
- FosterTalk provide a comprehensive service about tax and accountancy for their members.
- The Fostering Network answer some FAQs about foster carer’s tax.
- Find out more about being a foster parent and working full time or part time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.”
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.
You can also find out more about becoming a foster carer with Compass by getting touch with us here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.