The UK’s foster care sector is a “crumbling and failing system”, according to the country’s leading fostering charity.
The Fostering Network’s State Of The Nation’s Foster Care 2021 report found that there is a crisis in the retention and recruitment of high-quality foster carers who can meet the needs of children in care.
Over a third of foster carers said that the allowance does not meet the full cost of the child’s care, which forces them to dip into their own pockets to provide for the children.
Only half of foster carers surveyed (53%) received sufficient information about a new child or young person coming into their care, making it harder to plan for, and support, their needs.
Some 58% of foster carers said that children were not able to visit their new home before moving in, which can leave them feeling insecure and unstable in their attachments.
The Fostering Network warned that these problems and a lack of foster carers mean children are missing out on vital support.
The charity’s chief executive Kevin Williams said: “Foster carers are paid for by the local authorities, but what we’ve seen central governments do across the country is reduce the spend to local authorities.
“Our call is absolutely a call to governments across the UK to make sure that they are properly funding local authorities.
“If they don’t properly fund local authorities, then local authorities cannot properly fund the foster care system.
“If we don’t fund the foster care system we know that long-term outcomes for children will not be as good as they could be and that will have additional costs for the state.”
Saduf Chaudhri has been fostering for 10 years and is currently a foster carer for two young boys.
She said fostering is “really rewarding” but it can also be “really difficult”, adding: “It can be very challenging because it is 24 hours a day and the children you’re dealing with can have very complex needs.”
While praising her current social worker, Ms Chaudhri said that care-giving services nationwide are “relying on goodwill”.
“So much of what we do is goodwill and we are just responsible people and reliable people.
“It’s not just foster caring, it’s across the board – as a society we need to look at this and look at who we value and how we support people that are really keeping society going.”
Fostering can also be expensive, she said, adding: “For us, because it’s not our primary income we manage quite well, but it is an expense, having children is an expensive thing especially those with special needs.
“A lot of these kids have missed out on important things – that’s why today we brought the children to the Christmas markets because they’ve never been before.
“So it’s just giving them those experiences.
“Do you want to do the job the best you can do, or do you just want to keep them at home?
“There are problems that need to be addressed – it’s not just about feeding them.”
Foster carers provide 24/7 care for nearly 70,000 children across the UK and 61% of those who responded to The Fostering Network survey do not combine fostering with other work.
Yet, only nine per cent of foster carers reported receiving more than the National Living Wage per calendar month.
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