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Should foster carers be treated like workers or is it a vocation?

(39 Posts)
QuentinSummers Mon 09-Oct-17 20:22:19

A foster carer is taking a council to employment tribunal for rights equivalent to a worker. She is arguing foster carers are vulnerable to discrimination and unfair treatment.

On the radio the argument against was that foster caring is a vocation soshouldnt be paid like a job.

I think it should be treated like a job, it is work, it's providing a valuable public service and should be recognised as such.

I think caring is undervaluedin society and this is to the detriment of women.

And I think there us a creeping discourse of "it's a vocation" being used to justify underpaying people in traditional female careers - have heard this about teaching, social work and increasingly medicine.

What do you think?

Silvertap Mon 09-Oct-17 20:24:56

I know nothing about it but heard the same report. My instinct was that a foster career is fulfilling a parental role and surely it cannot be good for the child to have your career trot off on holiday or sick leave.

On the other hand maybe there is room for in between placement paid time off.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 20:30:46

Can we see it as both? Most of us have emotional as well as financial relationships with our jobs. The people who care for the most vulnerable in our society are also vulnerable, unless they have access to adequate emotional and financial support. I think you're right, op, that the only reason this kind of care work is so badly paid is because it has historically been done by women.

MissAlabamaWhitman Mon 09-Oct-17 21:33:20

If foster carers were predominantly male there would be no need for such debate.

Their rights as workers would have been assured at the point at which their role was defined.

See also nursing, teaching, social work ad infinitum.

OlennasWimple Mon 09-Oct-17 22:12:45

It's a very particular type of job, though, isn't is? It isn't the same as being in an office 9-5 (or whatever). And if it is a job, then NMW applies which would be pretty much unaffordable for most councils, I'd imagine, as FC could claim for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when they have a FC living with them.

(I don't disagree with your wider point, that caring roles are undervalued because they are primarily done by women)

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 09-Oct-17 22:15:48

Is it not similar to live in care workers who work in residential children's homes? It's the same role being performed, acting as a parent to the children in their care.

imnottoofussed Mon 09-Oct-17 22:22:28

Yes but live in care workers do a shift and get to go home. They don't treat the child as part of their family and in effect raise them. I personally don't see it as a job and I wouldn't want to be a child in foster care where I thought the carer was looking after me because they were paid to do it.

MagdalenLaundry Mon 09-Oct-17 22:28:06

They do trot off on leave
My child had 7 moved in 15 months for respite (holidays). Shockingly bad for a new born and has had a lasting impact

QuentinSummers Mon 09-Oct-17 22:30:03

I don't think the amount of pay is really the point. It's more some of the other things she was saying about paid holiday (which i think is fair enough) and the potential for foster carers to have their position terminated with no notice, for no reason.
Practically foster carers have to pay their bills like everyone else and they deserve protection.
The whole idea you can trade being treated reasonably for a "vocation" massively irks me and as Alabama says, this wouldn't happen if most carers were men.
Look at the historic meaning of vocation - serving the church. With a lot of potential for power and money if you were male.

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 09-Oct-17 22:34:42

Live-in care workers don't take the children into their own home/family, but they are in effect raising these children as no one else is doing that role.

I don't think necessarily that being paid to do a role isn't compatible with actually caring about the children. And foster carers are paid at the moment, aren't they?

OlennasWimple Mon 09-Oct-17 22:36:30

Some FC will put their FC into respite care when they go on holiday, some will take them with them (usually at their own expense, though the LA might pay for something like the passport)

Quentin - as far as I understand it, though, you can't cherry pick which bits of employment legislation would apply, so although the person taking this case is focusing on sick pay and termination of contract, another FC might take a decision that fostering is legally a job and push for NMW to apply

JoJoSM2 Mon 09-Oct-17 22:39:10

I don’t really have any proper understanding of the matter but always thought of them as self-employed, for example not taking new placements if they didn’t want to as opposed to being told what to do and when like an employee. They can determine their own theirabouts during the day etc. So a bit of a grey area really.

YetAnotherSpartacus Tue 10-Oct-17 12:16:24

From the perspective of the child in care, it's even more complex. Sometimes they want love, not care.

RB68 Tue 10-Oct-17 12:23:59

They are looking to be classified as workers rather than employees I believe so again different set of rules. But Fostering has more to it than just parenting - you are often dealing with children with multiple health, mental health/emotional and physical issues and there are skills involved in that that are generally beyond the experience of Jo Blogs parent.

I do think they should be entitled to respite/holidays and help when they are sick e.g. hi op or other major issues that need recovery time rather than just losing their income if the child is elsewhere or someone else is having to come in and be paid for.

Vocation - not sure that is the right word here. Nursing, teaching, caring, social work and even priests are a vocation they all get paid properly and have rights (although the priest tends to get a stipend)

MargoLovebutter Tue 10-Oct-17 12:28:49

I hadn't realised this was paid for. I thought foster parents looked after children/babies and received money to cover costs. Surely, if you decide to become a foster carer/parent, you do it in the same way as you would for your own children & you don't take holidays from them, they are part of your family - albeit on a temporary basis. Or am I being very naive?

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Tue 10-Oct-17 12:33:47

Margo a DF of mine does respite fostering. Very often foster carers have children of their own and foster very challenging children, where the placement would literally fall apart if the family got no respite.

I know of a family where the fostered child can not be left alone with any male, including the DH and the son of the family. They get fortnightly respite and a week off together twice a year, otherwise the strain on the existing family unit would be too much.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Tue 10-Oct-17 12:35:23

And while fostering is 'paid' it's nowhere near minimum wage. The demands are such that it's highly unlikely two people working full time would be able to foster, for example. Where fostering is a barrier to working outside the home I think it has to be paid.

MargoLovebutter Tue 10-Oct-17 12:41:39

That seems very sensible to me Lonny. A family with their own child that had massive issues and needed a very high level of care, may well make use of respite care. I get that completely.

What disturbs me is the thought that have sick leave, like you would for an ordinary job. Some people take time off when they have a cold - would that be how it would work for foster children? They get shunted off somewhere, if you are a bit poorly. That's not how it works for most parents / families. I understand if you have long-term sickness which makes you unsuitable to be a foster parent for a while. Maybe I'm being too black & white about it?

picklemepopcorn Tue 10-Oct-17 13:03:55

I was a foster carer and delayed having a prolapse repair because of the impact on my FCs. I needed a six week recovery with very limited work. My own DCs can be farmed out to neighbours, relatives, and left to their own devices a bit. FCs, not so much!

If they put support into the home, it could be hugely helpful and prolong placements.

I'd have liked to be a 'house parent'. To be the foster carer, but have someone else come in and do shifts so that I could recover, get away, etc.

The expenses paid only cover the obvious things- we needed to move house and it was much more expensive getting removal men in because of the DCs.

The 'pay element' is not enough to pay someone else to help out, even if you were allowed to get someone.

picklemepopcorn Tue 10-Oct-17 13:04:57

I would say they need support workers that can be bussed in to support families during tough times- recovery from an operation, a particularly difficult placement etc.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Tue 10-Oct-17 15:11:58

Margo I don't think there's anything like the level of resources to provide respite for coughs and colds. But you are only allowed to leave foster children with a very limited number of people.

So say you were in an accident and needed a few days in hospital and you had DCs, no doubt some fairly random (for want of a better word!) people would rally round - maybe your aunt would take your kids, or that nice friend from school would step up, or you'd hire a babysitter. You wouldn't have any of those options for most FCs, so they either go to respite or have a new emergency placement, which would be hugely disruptive.

The rules round things like babysitting, for eg, are incredibly strict.

MargoLovebutter Tue 10-Oct-17 15:17:45

Thanks Lonny, it is helpful to understand more about it.

YellowMakesMeSmile Wed 11-Oct-17 07:37:45

It should be a vocation not a job. If you go away or are sick then you arrange the same as you would do if they were your own child.

Children in care are already vulnerable and suffer with attachment issues without there carers sending them away as they want a holiday etc.

From what I've read online, pay is around £500 per week for a private firm foster care arrangement per child so it's a lucrative business and that seems so very very wrong.

makeourfuture Wed 11-Oct-17 07:45:19

surely it cannot be good for the child to have your career trot off on holiday or sick leave

This is a statement with no merit.

QuentinSummers Wed 11-Oct-17 08:00:46

From what I've read online, pay is around £500 per week for a private firm foster care arrangement per child so it's a lucrative business and that seems so very very wrong.
Why for it seem wrong? These aren't adoptive parents, they are foster carers. They've taken a huge impact on their life to be foster carers. Care generally is hugely undervalued which is why we have such issues with social care and childcare. £2000 pcm to spend 24 hours a day caring for a child who may have complex emotional needs is good value to me.

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