William Eichler 14 April 2016

Foster children ‘under threat’ from budget cuts

Government funding cuts to local authority budgets are putting the wellbeing of foster children at risk, survey finds.

The poll revealed local authority budget cuts have had a devastating impact on a number of areas relating to foster children, including their access to social workers and financial support for foster carers.

The survey, carried out in February 2016 by The Fostering Network and published as CUTS — the view from foster carers, discovered 70% of carers reported their allowances had been negatively impacted by local authority cuts.

The Fostering Network also learnt 69% of foster carers felt cuts were reducing access to their child’s social worker, and having a negative impact on the quality of this service.

Three out of five respondents reported feeling support from their supervising social worker was adversely affected by council budget cuts.

Two thirds (67%) felt that cuts had impacted negatively upon their and their fostered child’s access to other services, including respite care and vital mental health services, and 73% said cuts have had a negative impact on the fees they receive for fostering.

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.’

He continued: ‘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.’

A foster carer who responded to the survey told The Fostering Network: ‘We have fostered for over 25 years and cared for well over 300 young people and the service has never been in a worse position to deliver young people with a good care service.’

Responding to the report, Cllr Richard Watts, vice-chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Councils have worked hard to protect front-line children's services with spending on children and family services increasing between 2010 and 2013.

‘Unfortunately, this has still amounted to a reduction in real terms, and didn't take into account increasing demand, particularly in high end child protection services.’

The councillor reported that more than 20,000 extra children—an increase of more than 60% from eight years ago—are now receiving support through child protection plans

‘These pressures have left challenging choices elsewhere,’ he said, ‘and this report highlights some of the difficult decisions councils are forced to make every day.’

He continued: ‘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 at a time of falling budgets and rising demand.’

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