UK

Foster Carer Fights For Workers' Rights In Landmark Legal Case

'It’s not all fluffy bunnies. It is real work.'

09/10/2017 18:03 BST
Handout
Sarah Anderson has been a foster carer in Hampshire for 10 years

A foster carer has launched a bid to secure workers’ rights in a landmark legal case that “could change the lives” of those in the role.

Sarah Anderson submitted a claim against Hampshire County Council on Monday for increased employment protections, as well as holiday and sick pay entitlements.

Anderson, who has been a foster carer for 10 years, told HuffPost UK that, if successful, her case could pave the way for carers to be considered “workers”.

“People confuse what we do with adoption,” the 59-year-old said.

“Being a foster carer really is like a job - we are not substitute parents.”

There are about 55,000 fostering households in the UK caring for 64,000 children.

Anderson, who chairs the foster care workers branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), receives money for her role as a carer.

“My typical day looks like a job. I will be dealing with four or five different agencies... I’ll be very involved with educational institutions,” she added.

“I’ll do all the reports and recording. I’ll be on the phone throughout the day and dealing with the child’s social worker and our social worker.

“Like many workers, we have a continual professional development scheme.

“We have a fostering agreement, which is basically a contract, with rules and regulations, and both parties sign that. 

“We are controlled to within an inch of our lives. We have a chain of command. We have to do what we’re told, when we’re told. And we get paid.

“It often gets said ‘Oh, you’re only in it for the money’, but I always say to those people ‘Sign up here, there’s a form, here you go’.”

Anderson said that, all told, she typically receives around £2.98 an hour per child. She said fostering sometimes ends up costing some carers money.

She said many live in fear of being axed “on a whim” and that more employment protection would reduce stress and anxiety.

“The point is, no amount of money in the world would be enough if you don’t want to do this job,” she added.

“I can’t tell you what I have to go through sometimes... It’s not all fluffy bunnies. It is real work.

“The reward is that we now have the most amazing extended family. We have kids who arrived with little or no education up and off to university this year.”

Hampshire County Council said the law was clear and that carers were not “workers”.

The council said it is not aware of any case having been brought against it, at this stage, regarding worker status in relation to foster carers.

IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Many foster care workers are highly qualified, put in very long hours, are rigidly supervised and have foster care as their main source of income.

“This case is not about whether or not foster care is a form of work – that ship has sailed – this case is whether those workers should be entitled to the employment rights the rest of us take for granted.”

In June, a Glasgow tribunal recognised two foster carers as employees under Scottish law.