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Foster Children

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 8 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what would have been the approximate cost to local authorities in England if all the children aged under 16 years who had special needs and were cared for by foster parents had been in full-time residential homes or hostels funded by local authorities;(2) what would be the cost to his Department if, during the year 1977, attendance allowances were paid to foster parents of children with special needs;(3) what was the average weekly payment in England in 1976 paid to foster parents of children with special needs;(4) how many children with special needs, under the age of 16 years are at present being cared for by foster parents in England.

The information collected by my Department from local authorities does not separately identify children with special needs in their care, nor does it show separately either the cost of maintaining such children in residential homes or hostels or of paying boarding-out allowances to foster parents in respect of them. Boarding-out rates for children with special needs—including physically and mentally handicapped children, disturbed children and any other children whose care places a heavier burden on those looking after them than one would normally expect of a child in care—may, however, be as high as £40 a week in certain circumstances. If the hon. Member has in mind only those children with special needs who would satisfy the medical criteria for attendance allowance and would qualify for the allowance if they were not in the care of local authorities, we estimate that there are about 300 of these children for whom the cost of paying attendance allowance would amount to about £200,000 a year.