William Eichler 07 October 2016

Foster care system in need of ‘urgent attention’, MPs say

MPs have launched an inquiry into fostering in England today at a time when the number of looked-after children is at its highest point since 1985.

The House of Commons Education Committee will look into the recruitment and retention of foster carers and concerns over reductions in the number of available foster care places.

It will also examine the support for and treatment of foster carers, the involvement of young people in their foster care, and the increased role of private companies in providing foster care.

‘Fostering is a huge commitment and foster carers play a crucial role in making a positive contribution to the health, well-being, and future prospects of the children in their care,’ said committee chair Neil Carmichael.

‘There are more children in care than at any point since 1985 and there are very real concerns of a shortfall in the number of families available to foster and about the support offered to foster carers.’

The foster care system was in need of ‘urgent attention’, he said.

The majority of looked-after children are placed with foster carers. 52,050 of the 69,540 of the children looked after at 31 March 2015 were in a foster placement.

Available capacity for placing children across the fostering sector decreased from 2013-14 to 2014-15, with fewer vacant places and more places unavailable due to the needs of the child or foster carer.

The number of filled places increased by 1% overall but fell for local authority carers. Research by The Fostering Network claims that more than 9000 additional fostering families are needed across the UK in 2016.

‘Many people in the sector have been calling for a review of fostering for a while now and the Government has responded by announcing a ‘stock-take’ of fostering in England,’ Mr Carmichael continued.

‘But we do not have any details as to what this will look at, how long it will be or what the outcomes would be.’

‘As a Committee we want to identify the main areas where Government needs to act to ensure the foster care system in England is fully equipped to provide young people with the loving, stable care they deserve,’ he added.

The deadline for written evidence is November 25. The public evidence sessions for this inquiry are likely to begin in January 2017.

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