The fostering system in the UK is under ‘unsustainable strain’, with ‘hard-won improvements’ at risk of being eroded, a report has warned today.
The Fostering Network said the current system was undermining the terms, conditions and recruitment of foster carers.
The charity’s State of the Nation’s Foster Care report revealed only 42% of foster carers said their allowance covered the full cost of looking after fostered children, compared to 80% in 2014. A third of foster carers also said they were never or rarely given information about a child prior to their arrival.
Kevin Williams, The Fostering Network’s chief executive, said: ‘This report paints a picture of a fostering system which is under unsustainable strain and which is being held together by the goodwill and commitment of thousands of dedicated foster carers.
‘After many decades of campaigning for improvements to the fostering system, we are now seeing – perhaps for the first time – an erosion of those hard-won gains. We cannot allow this to continue.’
According to the survey, foster careers would like better communication and support from their fostering service, to be treated more as a professional and to receive better financial support.
‘Our fear is, that with austerity biting, the cracks within the fostering system are only likely to get bigger, and – for the sake of the stability and outcomes of tens of thousands of children fostered each year – this cannot be allowed to happen,’ Mr Williams added.
Council leaders warned that while the number of children on protection plans has risen by 60% since 2008, funding cuts will leave children’s services with a shortfall of £1.9bn in the next three years.
Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People’s Board, said: ‘Initiatives such as Staying Put, which allows children to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21, and the resettlement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children have been well supported by councils, but shortfalls in funding from Whitehall have left significant deficits in already depleted budgets.
‘The actions of some independent fostering agencies, which can charge councils more than double the cost of in-house placements while making substantial payouts to shareholders, saw more than £40m diverted away from services for vulnerable children and into the profits of just eight independent agencies in 2014-15.
'We strongly believe that this money would have been better spent on improving services for foster carers across the country.’