– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd February 2023.
2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its action to recruit more foster carers. (S6O-01853)
As part of keeping the Promise, we are committed to ensuring that children and young people who are looked after away from their own families and homes are provided with caring and loving foster families.
I am aware that the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have put pressure on foster carer capacity and that the situation has been worsened by the widening pressures that the social work sector faces, such as the pressures associated with the conflict in Ukraine and the issue of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Although responsibility for recruiting a sufficient number of foster carers lies with local authorities, we are actively working with key national and local partners to identify action that we can take collectively, now and in the future, to improve the situation.
A key aspect of encouraging more foster carers is ensuring that the right financial support is in place. Will the minister provide an update on discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities about progressing the recommendations of the review of carers allowance?
I agree with Mr FitzPatrick that ensuring that the right financial support and practical help are in place will be critical in encouraging more people to become foster carers. That is why the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to delivering a national allowance as quickly as possible. We know that that has taken longer than was originally anticipated, and we share the frustrations of care givers and those working with them. I assure Mr FitzPatrick that we are looking at all available options to make that happen. My officials will next meet COSLA on Tuesday 7 February.
I note that the minister commented on some external factors, but last week’s shocking statistics from Barnardo’s, which revealed that the number of children needing foster care in Scotland has increased by 50 per cent in the past year, were not mentioned.
I have a similar question. The programme for government for 2021-22 said that the Government was committed to introducing a national minimum allowance for foster and kinship carers, but no such policy has been introduced. That means that foster carers in Scotland live in the only part of the United Kingdom—
—where carers do not receive such a payment. When will the Government introduce that long-awaited national minimum allowance?
I think that I covered most of what Roz McCall has asked about in my response to Mr FitzPatrick. We appreciate that the Fostering Network has said that there is a shortage of almost 500 foster carers in Scotland, and we are working with stakeholders to explore ways to increase the number of people becoming foster carers. As part of that, we are willing to consider all options that have the potential to improve the lives of children with care experience, including the possibility of national and local remuneration.