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Foster carers to be paid £40,000 to look after children with complex needs

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FOSTER carers looking after children with complex needs will receive a £40,000 salary in a move designed to reduce the number of young Islanders being placed in residential care in Jersey or the UK, it has been announced.

Senator Sam Mézec Picture: ROB CURRIE. (26894746)

The intensive fostering service will be set up imminently, with recruitment due to begin next month. It is hoped that ten intensive foster parents can be recruited by 2022 – four this year, four in 2021 and a further two in 2022.

They will not be able to undertake other employment while working in the role. A further four general foster carers, who will receive allowances, are also being sought this year.

There are currently 18 children in residential care in Jersey and the UK, including a number with complex needs who are looked after for short breaks. Permanent residential care in the UK can cost around £200,000 per child each year.

Meanwhile, Children’s Minister Sam Mézec has announced that a new support package for all children in care is due to be published within weeks.

That package is expected to set out how the government intends to provide support to looked-after children by providing access to health, education, housing and travel. Assigning children a personal adviser to help them prepare for a life after care is also part of the plans, which are currently being developed.

There are currently 83 looked-after children in Jersey, a reduction from 93 at the end of 2018 due to a number of successful adoptions last year.

Of those, 22 are with family or a friend and 35 are with foster carers. A total of 23 children are currently placed off-Island, a reduction from 25 at the end of 2018. No new children were placed off-Island last year.

A total of 11 new general foster carers were recruited last year, bringing the total to 36.

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Commenting on the intensive fostering scheme, Senator Mézec said: ‘It has been recognised that the current provision does not offer placements to the full range of children’s needs, such as those who may have the most complex or challenging needs or who are teenagers or siblings. This has meant that children from Jersey have had to leave the Island to access an appropriate placement which can meet their needs and support their care plans.

‘Recruiting intensive foster carers to the Children’s Service will mean children with complex and challenging needs stay in Jersey and the spend on off-Island placements is reduced.’

The fostering service will be available to children aged from birth to 18 years with a range of complex or other specialist needs or who have a significant health issue, disability, long-term condition or life-limiting illness or have experienced abuse or trauma.

Meanwhile, under the support package being developed, some young adults would be able to stay with foster parents until they reach the age of 25, while children in care aged 14 or over would be allocated a personal adviser who would assist them up until the age of 25.

Senator Mézec said: ‘Meeting the needs of children in care and care leavers is a priority for the government. Corporate parenting and care leavers is an area where it is accepted Jersey has failed its looked-after children.

‘As a good corporate parent we need to ensure that our children are supported to ensure they flourish regardless of their start in life. We want to raise the aspirations of all our children and ensure they are supported to meet their potential.’

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