Ofsted warns of ‘serious shortage’ of foster carers in new report

The regulator publishes findings from a research project exploring what contributes to good matching decisions for children in foster care.

The report warned that the ‘serious shortage of carers’ was one of the most significant challenges to the sector and was particularly problematic when seeking matches for groups of brothers and sisters, disabled children and teenagers.

The regulator also said that it saw ‘little evidence’ that professionals were bureaucratically looking for exact matches of religion, ethnicity or cultural identity between children and carers, - contradicting a controversial speech given by the Education Secretary last month decrying ‘snobbishness’ in the process - but it said ‘good efforts’ were made to address these needs.

The report is the first part of a wider research programme that looks at decision-making for children in care, or on the edge of care, and care leavers. The research took place before the pandemic hit, however the regulator says that they are confident that their findings remain relevant.

The report praised the many examples of ‘persistent and thoughtful work’ to match children with appropriate foster carers, but also outlined areas where the voice of the child was not considered.

The regulator said that children did not always receive information about their foster carers or feel involved in the decisions, and also “when they were able to say what they wanted, they did not always believe that their views made a difference to what happened.”

The importance of effective record-keeping was also stated, so that people who have experienced being in care can understand how and why decisions were made about their lives.

It was also claimed that some carers said they had found that the practical demands of supporting children to keep in touch with their birth family to be ‘unexpectedly onerous’.

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