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Should foster carers be paid a salary?

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THE Island should explore paying its foster carers a salary, the Children’s Commissioner has said just over a year after the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report was released.

Deborah McMillan, Jersey’s Children’s Commissioner

Jersey has regularly struggled to find a suitable number of Islanders willing to become foster parents despite regular campaigns to boost numbers.

As of May, there were 50 children being cared for by 27 foster carers and 20 carers connected to the children they looked after.

The inquiry panel recommended a thorough review of fostering and found that there remains a lack of support, guidance and training for foster parents, and that communication between them and Children’s Services is often inadequate.

Now Deborah McMillan – who was appointed the Island’s first Children’s Commissioner following the release of the report – has said that it is perhaps time to explore whether foster carers should be paid as they are in the UK.

She said she was aware of cases in the Island in which children had to be sent to the UK – in some cases splitting siblings up – because of a lack of suitable foster carers in Jersey.

She said: ‘We know the only reason they are off-Island is because we can’t provide the specialist care on-Island. In the UK the foster carers are professional and are paid a salary. Maybe the time is right to have that discussion in Jersey.’

During a court case last year it emerged that two young brothers, who had been taken out of the care of their mother, had been re-homed in the UK because of the lack of carers in the Island.

Currently foster families in Jersey are paid expenses.

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Children and Housing Minister Sam Mézec, who was recently appointed the Island’s first Children’s Minister, said that he would not rule out paying foster carers but that the most important factor should be the care of youngsters rather than the money.

He said: ‘What I would say is I wouldn’t rule it out – we don’t have enough foster carers in Jersey.

‘Those who are volunteering as foster carers have to be doing so for the right reason and the right reason will never be money.

‘But we have to recognise that for some families it is very difficult for them to become foster parents even if they wanted to.

‘If it can broaden the range of people who can become foster parents then it is something that should be discussed.’

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