Our series continues, but this time we’re flipping transferrable skills on its head.
Fostering young people fundamentally relies on a carer’s ability to be flexible. Being able to harness practical training, personal experiences and empathy to make quick decisions that could have profound impacts on the young people entrusted to your care.
It’s not easy!
However, the support and training provide our carers with the ability to act! Not only in the best interests of the children in care, but for themselves and the people around them. It provides a rounded view that the non-fostering public may never experience; that they could undoubtedly benefit from.
Former Foster Carer Peter, who successfully applied for an SGO (special guardianship order) for 3 siblings fostered through The CFT, utilised his experiences as a carer to retrain, to support the children now permanently part of his family and the community of foster carers.
There are many nuances in fostering that can make seemingly straightforward tasks a little more complicated – managing finances and mortgages being some of the most stressful for carers, whose time is normally taken up with the needs of their children.
We spoke to Peter as he launched his new business, providing Mortgage Advice. His speciality… Foster families of course.
Peter grew up as a birth child in a family that fostered, paving the way for both him and his sister to become carers in adulthood.
“It was always a constant in my life. So we kind of fell into it.”
Having started his fostering career with another agency Peter & wife Sarah began to survey their options as support waned.
“We joined CFT from another agency after becoming frustrated with the levels of support we were receiving.
At the time we were living in South Yorkshire and had been specialising in Teenagers. My wife, Sarah, was a secondary school teacher at the time and helping teens get through their GCSEs was a natural fit. We had a 16-year-old placed with us when we moved agencies and shortly after turning 17 she decided to move into assisted independent living and we made a BIG change.
Sarah left teaching and together we took on three siblings aged 3, 4 and 5.
The next year was an absolute blur and it became obvious that we should move closer to Sarah’s family further north, for support and a better quality of life. So a week before the first lockdown we moved to a small town in the North Pennines and shortly before lockdown, we began the SGO process.”
Deciding on an SGO is a massive decision for foster carer’s, they are lengthy processes that ensure a home for children that is no longer decided by the corporate parents. It requires willpower and an understanding that the financial and supporting safety nets provided through fostering will be cut. It’s not only the homestead that changes, but the lifestyle as well.
“This took around 2 years to complete. With 3 growing children and no more Fostering career, I decided to re-train.”
Peter’s experience as a foster carer, with all the trails and tribulations of making decisions that folk take for granted; foster carers need more guidance that’s relatable to the experience. Foster carers are self-employed, yet contracted professionals, you’re not simply “employed”.
“One of the most frustrating parts of fostering had been dealing with my mortgage and the issues around using the full fostering allowance as income.
I’d gone through the Fostering Networks suggested company but found myself talking to an adviser that had never dealt with a Foster Career before.
I knew there had to be a better way. So I founded Moor Mortgages with a special interest in helping my former colleagues.”
Every home that fosters is unique, with different levels of support required to negotiate finances etc. In real terms, Peter break’s down how being an expert in Mortgage advice for foster carers differs from regular brokerage.
“There’s a lot more to think about when advising for carers. Not just their recent financial history but future plans. Lenders will want to know plans if placements fall through and providing those answers before they’re asked looks proactive and the underwriters (people who make the decisions at the banks) love it.
Recently we’ve seen the government and banks make changes to the way they consider income from fostering and the availability of mortgages that could support carers. On the face of it, these initiatives are brilliant, however Peter’s knowledge ensures carers get what’s best for them and their individualised situations.
“There is a lot of things happening in the sector but most of these changes aren’t quite as good as they first seem. To qualify for 0% deposit for instance, which is only available through one lender, you need 2 years of perfect rent proof and income.
For employed persons that can be simple but in fostering there are usually weeks here and there where you don’t have a placement and therefore wouldn’t qualify. The amount you can borrow is also based on how much rent you have been paying and isn’t enough to pay for a similarly sized house.
Downsizing isn’t an option if you need the bedrooms for your job. It’s tricky at the moment, but there are good deals out there if you know where to look.”
Finally, we asked Peter if there’s any specific advice for prospective carers who own their homes and those looking to get a foot on the ladder.
“Don’t leave it until the last minute. If your fixed rate is coming to a close in the next 6 months you should speak to an advisor and get a offer locked in. This will save that rate. 4 months later you’d do another check and see if you can beat the deal you have locked in. Win win.
For new buyers, affordability is the main thing (other than the deposit). Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions or meal kits etc 3 months before applying. Even reducing your outgoings by £50-£100 will seriously improve your affordability and could be the thing that gets you across the line.”
For Peter, being a carer provided the necessary experience to build his own business, providing for his growing family and those in fostering who need guidance from someone who knows the ropes.
Being a carer isn’t simple, but the investment isn’t limited to the children. Foster carers’ access to opportunity through training and way of life, can open doors to careers that would otherwise feel a way off.
Despite no longer being a CFT Carer, Peter is providing a resource that is invaluable to our carer group.
And for those who need help with their finances/mortgage brokerage, get in touch!