BOROUGH councillors have approved plans to grant foster carers free council tax to encourage more to step forward.

Cheshire East Council has said the move shows it is committed to increasing the number of local authority foster carers who can provide a good home for vulnerable children.

The council’s recruitment campaign in conjunction with neighbouring local authorities means that twenty more foster parents were recruited last year.

Clr Rachel Bailey, cabinet member in charge of children and families, said: “This is a scheme designed to encourage more foster parents to come forward and help them with the financial burden of looking after a dependent.

“Exempting foster carers from council tax liability, we believe, will incentivise those families who want to foster but are worried about the costs associated with looking after a young person.

“We know that issues around finance are a major cause in family breakdowns and, having found a good foster home for the child, we want to support that family in the best way we can.

“Research shows us that children who are given a loving and stable home are more likely to thrive in adulthood and we are totally committed to ensuring that all our children get the best possible start in life.

“The best outcome for a child is that they are placed in a loving and caring environment and then this leads to a more permanent arrangement.

“We believe that by taking away some of the worry about the cost of looking after a child this could ultimately deliver a better outcome for our children.

“This is all about providing the best service and doing the right thing to support people who make such a huge difference to the lives of young people."

Council Leader Clr Michael Jones added: “This is an invest to save initiative and ensures that everyone wins. At Cheshire East Council we are committed to ensuring that our young people come first.”

The Council has granted the exemption using its powers under section 13 A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

Foster carers will be exempt during the duration of their role as foster carers and will receive a reimbursement on a monthly basis equivalent to the amount of council tax liable. This will also apply to carers approved by Cheshire East living outside of the borough.

Current foster carers will receive the exemption which will be applied to their next bill and Cheshire East Council will be writing to foster parents in the near future to fully set out the changes.

Cheshire East has 108 fostering households within the borough and the council tax exemption for these foster parents amounts to £139k per annum.

There are 37 foster households that are outside of the borough and they will receive the reimbursement amounting to some £48k per annum.

In total, the initiative will cost £187k and costs within the first year of the scheme will be met via the adoption reform grant monies 2014/15.