There is a struggle to find suitable accommodation for vulnerable young children due to little changes in capacity yet demand being at its highest, Ofsted has warned.
There has been little variation in the number of foster carers and places available, Ofsted’s annual fostering statistics show, which has caused the inspectorate to raise concerns about the difficulty in finding suitable care for the most vulnerable children in an over-stretched system.
Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, said: “Although today’s statistics show a small rise in foster carers and places, there still isn’t anywhere near enough to meet demand. The difficulty in recruiting carers with the right skills and experience, along with what is potentially an aging carer population, is a mix that could be storing up trouble for the future.
“Combined with the urgent need for more residential provision, ensuring a sustainable system, with a pool of carers and homes that meet children’s increasingly complex needs, has to be a priority for the forthcoming Care Review,” she added.
The figures demonstrate interest in becoming a foster carer, and enquiries from prospective carers have gone up. However, there has been a 10% decrease in applications since March last year.
At the same time, the figures capture the age profile of England’s foster carers for the first time and these reveal that the vast majority – 65% – are aged over 50, while a quarter of carers are aged over 60.
The data comes just weeks after Ofsted published research showing more needs to be done in matching children in care to foster carers.
The research showed that getting foster matches right, as well as keeping foster carers in the system, is vitally important. When matches fail, children who have already faced trauma and disruption in their lives, are caused further distress. Placement breakdowns can also lead to foster carers taking a break or deciding to stop fostering altogether.
One of the most significant challenges when it comes to getting matches right is the shortage of foster carers, the report showed. This is even more apparent when finding suitable foster homes for groups of siblings, disabled children and teenagers. Local authorities and fostering agencies often have a limited choice, balancing what is ideal for a child with what is available.
Fostering in England 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020