'Huge increase' in interest in fostering, but issues with pay and competition remain

More foster carers are needed to look after the hundreds of children in the care system.
More foster carers are needed to look after the hundreds of children in the care system.

There's been a "huge increase" in the number of people considering fostering as a career in the Wakefield district, a council committee has been told.

Mark Nevill, Wakefield Council's head of fostering, said that there had been 39 expressions of interest in foster care during the last three months of 2018, which he said was a significant rise from the previous year.

It follows a major recruitment drive by the local authority in recent months, which has seen targeted advertising placed at local rugby league games and in public sector workplaces.

However, Mr Nevill also said that some current foster carers feel their pay is "extremely low", which he said the local authority was addressing.

And he acknowledged that the council was competing against neighbouring authorities such as Leeds for the services of foster parents, a situation he said would be helped by a more "regional approach" to the care system.

Speaking about recruitment, he told Wakefield's corporate parenting committee: "We do target certain areas. For example, we do focus quite a bit on the public sector.

"Through our programmes we campaign where our partners, such as the police and the health sector, are working.

"We've also been recruiting with the help of our partners in Castleford Tigers, and now Featherstone Rovers.

"We're now going to be moving across the grassroots now, and not just at the major clubs, because we recognise there's an obsession with rugby league in this area."

Mr Nevill described recent recruitment as successful but added that the council wasn't complacement because many more carers were needed.

The authority currently has more than 500 youngsters in the care system, but only 166 fostering households.

On the issue on financial rewards for carers, he said: "Current levels of pay are extremely low.

"We do pay more or less the same as what other authorities pay, but for some it's about £250 a week, and that is extremely low.

"We need to look at doing something to improve that."

The council has suggested it will also look to recruit carers outside of the district.

Councillor Jacquie Speight said that she'd received a leaflet through the post from Leeds City Council's marketing department, despite living in Castleford.

Asked if Wakefield planned to recruit outside its own boundaries, Mr Nevill responded: "Leeds are very clever and they are successful. They do target the private fostering agencies, so they know where those people live.

"We're going to do a bit of a counter against that.

"What we have to recognise is we are competing against other councils, and we do need more of a regional approach to that really."