Foster care system requires ‘urgent attention’, MPs argue

The House of Commons Education Committee has launched an inquiry into fostering care in England.

The investigation will examine recruitment and retention of foster carers and concerns over the reduction in the number of available foster care places. It comes as the number of looked-after children has reached its highest point since 1985.

Data shows that 52,050 of the 69,540 of the children looked after on 31 March 2015 were in a foster placement. However, the available capacity for placing children across the fostering sector decreased from 2013-14 to 2014-15, with fewer vacant places.

According to research by The Fostering Network, more than 9000 additional fostering families are needed across the UK in 2016.

Neil Carmichael, chair of the committee, said: “Fostering is a huge commitment and foster carers play a crucial role in making a positive contribution to the health, well-being, and future prospects of the children in their care.

“There are more children in care than at any point since 1985 and there are very real concerns of a shortfall in the number of families available to foster and about the support offered to foster carers.”

He added: “Many people in the sector have been calling for a review of fostering for a while now and the government has responded by announcing a ‘stock-take’ of fostering in England. But we do not have any details as to what this will look at, how long it will be or what the outcomes would be.

“As a Committee we want to identify the main areas where government needs to act to ensure the foster care system in England is fully equipped to provide young people with the loving, stable care they deserve.”