Growing need means 77,000 children will need foster care

New research from the Social Market Foundation has revealed that the number of children needing foster care in England is set to rise by almost a third by 2030 but councils are failing to make plans to care for vulnerable youngsters.

The think tank’s calculations are made in a report revealing that many local authorities are failing to fulfil their legal obligations to provide foster care that meets children’s needs and produce plans to meet future need. The SMF forecast that there will be almost 77,000 children in foster care by 2030, an increase of more than 30 per cent. There are currently around 56,500 children being fostered in England.

Many councils are failing to meet a statutory duty to plan and provide adequate fostering places, meaning that siblings are split up when they are fostered. The SMF said that official data and past evidence suggest that thousands of brothers and sisters have been separated in foster care in the last five years.

Three quarters of local authorities told the SMF they had made no forecast of future demand for foster care, making it impossible for them to ensure they have enough places for vulnerable children. A failure to forecast future needs was contributing to thousands of children not being placed ‘to plan’ due to a lack of adequate available placements which meet the needs of foster children.

The report calls for a nationally coordinated measure of ‘effective capacity’ to be established by the Department for Education, Ofsted, local councils and independent foster providers.

Local and national officials must recognise that it is not the overall number of places available that matters but the appropriateness of those places and whether they meet the needs of children who need placing with foster families.

Matthew Oakley, Senior Researcher at the SMF, said: “Children requiring foster care are some of the most vulnerable in society. With the right placements, providing the support and care they need, these children can be given the same life chances as children without care experience. But this is not happening. Local authorities are abjectly failing to meet their legal duties to plan for and provide foster placements that meet the needs of children needing foster care.

“The Department for Education and local authorities must work together urgently to turn this around. We need a new national strategy for ensuring the foster care system has effective capacity and much more support for local authorities to meet their legal duties.

“There can be good reasons for separating siblings in some cases, but doing so because the council has not planned enough appropriate fostering provision is inexcusable. These are vulnerable children who have already faced trauma and turmoil, so it is appalling that the state should then inflict additional strain on them.”

Event Diary

This year, Total Telecom’s Connected Britain is celebrating its 10th anniversary, marking a decade of networking, innovation, and collaboration. The conference is now the UK’s largest digital economy event, set to welcome over 7,500 delegates from the telecoms industry and beyond to discuss the hottest topics at ExCel London on September 11–12. 

DTX brings together creative minds and technology practitioners with the tools needed to drive change, enhance experiences and improve efficiencies across today’s organisations.

The countdown to the Environmental Services & Solutions Expo (ESS Expo) is on! As the UK’s largest environmental gathering, ESS Expo is set to take place on 11-12 September 2024 at the NEC, Birmingham.