Foster carers face council cuts as children in care reach 30-year high

Local government cuts mean foster parents and social workers are struggling to provide enough care for looked-after children, a charity has warned following a survey of foster carers.

The number of looked after children is at its highest since 1985, with 79% of children in care living with foster families. Despite this, almost all foster parents questioned by The Fostering Network said that local council cuts were being passed onto them.

Foster parents said that the fees paid were frozen and outdated and expressed concern that this would lead to less people wanting to become foster parents, with over 70% saying the cuts had affected their fees and 68.4% saying they had affected the allowances paid for the needs of the child.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: “We are extremely concerned that so many foster carers feel that recent cuts are having a negative impact on their fostered children’s access to the support and services that they so vitally need. The wellbeing of thousands of fostered children is under threat.

“This is worrying enough in itself. But equally worrying is the drop in the support – both practical and financial – being offered to foster carers to enable them to provide stable and loving homes to these children.

“With a steady rise in the number of children coming into care, and the recent cuts in local authority budgets, the results of this survey are a call to action for Government to recognise both their role as corporate parents of children in care and the vital part that foster care plays in giving these children loving homes and the best chance of a successful life. We therefore urge them to fund local authorities to ensure that foster carers are fully supported to take on the task they devote their lives to doing and for which there is an increasing demand.

“It’s basic economics – invest in our children when they need it most, and they will pay you back for decades and generations to come.”

Respondents also reported that the cuts had had a negative impact on social workers, with almost 70% saying it had made social workers harder to access and many reporting that the social workers seemed overworked and stressed, with a high turnover and increasing reliance on agency staff – one foster parent said a child in their care had had four social workers in one year.

Services for foster parents were also suffering, with 65.6% saying they had less access to respite and out of hours services, 60.3% saying they had less support from supervising social workers, and 53.7% saying the cuts had led to a reduction in foster carer training.

Cllr Richard Watts, vice-chair of the LGA’s children and young people’s board, said: “This report highlights some of the difficult decisions councils are forced to make every day. There are no easy choices as councils try to balance the immediate need to safeguard a child with the clear benefits that can come later from investment in vital support services and early intervention. It is increasingly difficult to do both.”

He added that early intervention funding from the government will fall from more than £3.2bn to less than £1bn by 2020, making it harder for councils to tackle the causes of problems that lead to children being put in care.


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