issue: September/October 2006

New allowances for foster carers

Fortnightly allowance rates for foster carers are set to change with the introduction of new rates paid based on the age of children and young people in the care.

The details of the new allowances and contingency payments were announced by NSW Premier Morris Iemma at the Foster Care Week Picnic held at Homebush Bay on Sunday 10 September.

DoCS Deputy Director General, Dr Gül Izmir, said the new allowances had been developed following feedback from foster carers and consideration of research about the costs of caring for children.

“There have been ongoing calls for indexation of allowance payments to keep pace with increases in the costs of living and to reflect the costs of caring for children and young people,” said Dr Izmir. “These issues led to a review of the allowances and contingencies payment system and the development of a new system that has a simpler structure, re-introduces age-based payments and builds in indexation.

“Raising the allowances should also increase the number of people stepping forward to become foster carers.” The new system has been developed following a comprehensive review of the current system, analysis of the costs of caring for foster children and a review of payments made in other states and territories.

While NSW currently pays the highest allowance rates in Australia for children under 13 years old, it is the only state in Australia that does not have an age-based allowance system.

The return to age-based allowances, as recommended by the NSW Social Policy Research Centre, reflects the increasing costs as children and young people get older and addresses the concerns of carers that the current rate is insufficient for older children and young people.

The new system will also see the allowances paid to eligible relative and kinship carers align with those paid to foster carers of children in statutory out-of-home care. This will include provisions for higher rates for children with high and complex needs as well as eligibility for contingency payments for additional goods and services, such as medical needs, counselling and assistance with birth family contact.

The new system builds in indexation on all carer allowances to keep pace with increases in the costs of living.

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