Lack of capacity in foster care means vulnerable children missing out on support

A continued lack of capacity in the foster care sector is leading to vulnerable children missing out on the care and support they need, Ofsted says.

12/11/21

Lack of capacity in foster care means vulnerable children missing out on support

Despite numbers of fostering households and foster carers in England being at their highest levels ever, these increases are not keeping up with demand in the sector, according to Ofsted’s annual fostering statistics.

The number of foster carers in England has only increased by 4% since 2014, while the number of children in foster care has increased by 11%. While the number of fostering households and carers has gone up, new research by the children’s social care inspectorate suggests that the range of carers available are not always able to meet children’s increasingly complex needs.

Ofsted has warned that as the number of children in care continues to grow, matching them with the right carers will become “increasingly difficult”, and makes it more likely that very vulnerable children will face placement breakdowns and further disruption to their lives. Meanwhile, the number of family and friends fostering households is at its highest level. Ofsted says that these carers are a vital part of the system – but that their impact on overall capacity is limited by the nature of their role.

Record levels of enquiries were received from prospective fostering households last year, but statistics show these are not translating into applications. Of 160,000 initial enquiries from prospective fostering households, only around 10,000 resulted in applications – a decrease on previous years.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said the statistics paint a bleak picture.

“Foster carers make such a difference to children’s lives. But year on year we see more children coming into foster care, and too few carers with the right skills to give them the support they deserve. How long can this go on before the care system reaches breaking point?

“We rarely see children coming into care who don’t need to be, but with the right help earlier, some may be able to remain with their families. We also need to urgently boost the number of foster carers, making sure they, and the children they care for, get the right support.”

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