EXTRA holidays for council employees who foster children have been agreed amid concerns about a rise in the number of youngsters in care.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet yesterday agreed to initiatives to encourage more staff to become foster carers.

These include giving council staff who foster children an extra five days paid holiday each year.

They are to also increase the £250 sum a foster carer receives for recommending someone who is later approved to become a carer.

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It comes after the number of children entering its care rose by 11 per cent in the last six months to 521.

But foster carer numbers have remained static, now 301, leading to children being put in care homes or sent to foster carers outside the county.

Councillors hope the scheme could be extended to Thames Valley Police, district councils, businesses and the health service.

They want Oxfordshire’s district councils and Oxford City Council to explore giving foster carers a council tax discount.

In October, 343 children in care in Oxfordshire were with foster carers, 94 were with independent fostering agencies and 88 were in care homes.

A further 80 were placed outside both the county and neighbouring local authorities, a rise from 71 at the start of September.

The moves were backed by Kidlington’s Jenny and John Barney, who have fostered more than 50 children since becoming carers 19 years ago.

Mrs Barney, currently looking after two children, said: “We have got to be realistic.

“A lot of people are looking at fostering as a carer and I think you need to look at the financial aspects of it.

“I think there has to be a good financial package involved and a good support network.

“If people are thinking about fostering I would encourage them to do it.”

Cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley said: “I cannot stress enough how much better it is for children to be in foster care rather than a care home.

“If children are kept closer to their original home they do a lot better and have much better outcomes.

“I think extra holidays are a great idea.

“I think we need to give incentives to people.

“I think that most foster carers do not do it for the money but I think if you can give them incentives to encourage more people to join up then it is a good thing.”

Mrs Tilley said she did not know why the number of children in care has risen.

She said: “We do not have any idea. It is a nationwide rise.

“We are asking other councils but they are all in the same position.

“Nobody seems to know why it is.”


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