More children are being taken into care with fewer foster carers to look after them, says Barnardo’s as it launches its 10th annual fostering campaign fronted by TOWIE’s Lydia Bright and Debbie Douglas.
The number of children in care in England has risen by 27 per cent in the last 10 years, says the UK’s leading children’s charity as it urgently appeals for more people to consider fostering as part of its Barnardo’s Fostering Week 2019, which launches on January 21st.
In the past decade, Barnardo’s foster carers have looked after thousands of children, giving them the best chance to have a happier and positive future. However, the charity is concerned there are not enough suitable foster families to take care of the increasing numbers of vulnerable children in care.
Increasing child poverty, a lack of early intervention and support for families before they reach crisis point, and a heightened awareness of abuse and neglect are among the complex reasons more and more children and young people are being taken into care.
But figures from Ofsted show that the number of approved carers has dropped by 950 in just one year. If these trends continue it will become even more difficult to find good foster placements for vulnerable children.
Now, Barnardo’s is celebrating ten years since its first UK fostering campaign and the charity’s foster carers have welcomed vulnerable children into their families more than 8,288 times across the UK.
The charity’s celebrity fostering ambassadors Lydia Bright and Debbie Douglas are fronting this year’s campaign calling for more people to step forward to take on this rewarding role to ensure that vulnerable children have a loving family to support them when they need it.
The mother and daughter from TV’s TOWIE have been a fostering family for more than 25 years for more than 250 children.
Debbie said: “Having a safe and caring family is so important when you are growing up. With so many more children coming into care, it’s so crucial that more people become foster carers. Knowing you can provide that loving family for a child when they need it most is so rewarding and can really help to transform their lives – and yours.”
Lydia added: “We have loved having foster children as part of our family; it is incredible to see the difference having a caring, supportive family can make. We are proud to play a part in helping them to have a happy childhood and positive future.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “As the number of children in care continues to rise, we need more foster carers than ever before. At Barnardo’s we find loving families for vulnerable children in communities across the UK, and we give foster carers the training and support they need.
“Being a foster carer can be a challenge but it’s also incredibly rewarding and gives children the love, care and life skills they need to build better and brighter futures.
“I want to thank all of our amazing foster carers for helping us transform children’s lives. And I would urge anyone considering becoming a foster carer to get in touch to find out more. Incredible things happen when you believe in children.”
In England, on 31 March 2008, there were 59,370 children in care – 70 per cent of which were in foster care[i]. By 31 March 2018, it had increased to 75,420– up by 27 per cent in a decade and with 73 per cent of those children living in foster care at that time. [ii] The number of children in foster care itself has increased by 31.4 per cent in a decade.
In contrast, the number of approved foster carers is decreasing, with the latest available figures from Ofsted showing that in England, as of 31 March 2017, this number reduced to 61,415, compared with 62,365 in March 2016.[iii] The reasons behind the decrease are complex and can include birth children living at home for longer and rising house prices meaning that prospective carers do not have the required spare room; and older foster carers are reaching retirement age while younger families are becoming increasingly responsible for their own parents care as they get older.
A continuation of these trends will mean it will become more difficult to find the best foster carers for vulnerable children when they most need a loving family. Carers need to have the right training and skills, live in the right location and be available at the right time for a child who is disabled, are siblings, older children, or from a religious or minority ethnic background.
This could mean children have to wait longer before finding the best match or that they may need to be moved to a different family several times because the most appropriate carer is not available, which can have a negative impact on a child.
One Barnardo’s carer who knows the difference a safe and stable foster family can make to a child’s life is Helen Elward, 62, from Rugby, who has provided specialist foster care for almost 40 children in the last eight years. They are often some of the most vulnerable in the care system – on bail or remand, or affected by child sexual exploitation – and stay with Helen for anything from a few days to several months.
Helen said: “Young people sometimes feel society has given up on them, so they give up on themselves. It’s amazing to see the difference you can make in such a short space of time.
“We can help them to completely transform their lives. They can talk about their problems if they want to, and we try to build their self-confidence and enable them to be the person they can be.
“They’ve gone on to university, established their own businesses and started families. Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them – perhaps they’ve never had that before.”
Follow #WeSupportFostering on social media. To find out more about becoming a foster carer or the support Barnardo’s can offer visit: www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or call 0800 0277 280.