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Foster care system “reaching breaking point”, Ofsted reveals

Vulnerable children are missing out on the vital care and support they need due to a shortage of foster carers, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by Ofsted, suggests that demand for children’s social care services is now outstripping supply.

According to the report, the number of foster carers in England has increased by just four per cent since 2014, while the number of children in foster care has soared by 11 per cent.

The study also shows that, while the number of fostering households and carers has increased, the range of carers available are not always accessible to meet the demands of children with complex conditions and needs.

This is making it “increasingly difficulty” to match vulnerable children with specialist carers, Ofsted warns.

But there is hope on the horizon. The latest figures suggest that the number of family and friends fostering households is at its highest level, while there were record levels of enquiries received from prospective fostering households in the last year.

Commenting on the findings, Ofsted said the number of new fostering households are not keeping up with demand in the sector.

“Today’s statistics paint a bleak picture. Foster carers make such a difference to children’s lives. But year on year we see more children coming into foster care, and too few carers with the right skills to give them the support they deserve. How long can this go on before the care system reaches breaking point?” said Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care.

“We rarely see children coming into care who don’t need to be, but with the right help earlier, some may be able to remain with their families. We also need to urgently boost the number of foster carers, making sure they, and the children they care for, get the right support.”

Click here to access the Ofsted statistics.

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