Essex County Council is set to dramatically increase the amount paid to fosterers as it tries to attract more people into the service in the face of falling numbers.

The Essex County Council Fostering service is set to significantly increase its fees, support and training package for foster carers, meaning that from 1 October 2018, foster carers can expect to receive up to £479 a week for each child they care for.

Essex County Council says that fostering will now be more financially viable  for more people in the county and brings Essex in line with the fees paid by neighbouring local authorities and independent fostering agencies.

The decision comes after a drop in the number of fostering households in the county from 493 in 2014 to 464 now.

There is now a £200 fee, plus an allowance, per child  aged 0 to 10, per week.

There is a £250 fee plus an allowance per child  aged 11 to 18 years, and a £250 fee plus allowance for children with disabilities of any age, per week.

Aligned to this are service improvements, including dedicated resources to manage initial enquiries, specialist therapeutic support for all foster carers – clinical psychologists and mental health coordinators in each quadrant – respite and peer support for foster carers and a reward and recognition programme.

There will also be increased opportunities for existing carers to be supported financially to extend their homes to provide increased capacity to care for more children.

Phase two of the project will also look at the use of digital options to enhance the marketing of fostering, to ensure immediate and positive response to enquiries and improve the experience of current foster carers.

This will include a case management portal for foster carers and social work staff and implementation of an online expenses system for in-house foster carers.

Previously there was an intermediate fee of £125 (this was not paid per child and was regardless of the age of the child), an advanced fee of £250 for the first child, plus £125 for a second child.

Councillor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We are delighted to be able to reward our foster carers with a new financial package and increased support and training.

“We know that stable foster placements provide the best experience for children in care and investing in our own in-house fostering service ensures we continue to support carers to provide the best outcomes for local children.

“We need more local carers so we can meet the needs of children in Essex, in their own communities and our aim is to ensure as many of our young people as possible are well-matched with Essex’s own foster carers and can benefit from the excellent support networks we provide.”