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Slow decline in number of approved fostering households continues

Proportion of fostered young people Staying Put increases

The slow decline in the number of approved fostering households has continued. Fostering in England statistics for the year to 31 March 2018 show that on that date there were 43,475 fostering households; a decrease of 1 per cent compared to 31 March 2017.

Despite an increase in approved fostering places, there has been a decrease in the number of places vacant for children. Filled places increased more than approved places increased, leading to a 5 per cent decrease in vacant places.

On 31 March 2018, just over 53,000 children and young people were placed with foster carers. This is an increase of around 1,000 compared with 31 March 2017.

The proportion of fostered young people Staying Put increased to 1,695 (49 per cent) in 2017–18 compared with 1,570 (46 per cent) last year. Those Staying Put with IFA carers increased by 2 percentage points (to 40 per cent) and local authority carers by 6 percentage points (to 58 per cent).

In 2017–18, over 6,000 children and young people experienced unplanned endings. Of these children and young people, 25 per cent were moved within 24 hours. This is an increase of four percentage points since last year, when 21 per cent of unplanned endings resulted in the child moving within 24 hours.

In 2017–18, only 40 per cent of IFA placed children who went missing received a return home interview compared with 68 per cent of children placed with local authorities.

Responding to the release of the national fostering statistics, chief executive of The Fostering Network, Kevin Williams, said:

"The figures make informative reading and help paint a picture of fostering and fostered children in England.

"While recruitment has remained steady, the number of foster carers leaving the profession has risen; our concern is that this may be due to foster carers leaving because they feel under supported, under paid, and underappreciated as we so often hear from our members.

"We are disappointed to see that the number of siblings not being placed in line with their plan has risen significantly in the last two years. Sibling relationships are some of the most important in our lives, particularly for children who don't live with their parents, so it is of real concern that so many siblings are being split up when they come into care.

"It is vital that fostering services have a good understanding of what their foster carer recruitment needs are and that the right foster carers are available at the right time in the right place; otherwise children may end up living far from their friends, birth family and school, as well as being split up from their siblings.

"The number of young people missing out on the opportunities to stay living with their former foster carers under Staying Put in England is also disappointing, despite the small increase in uptake this year. These figures are especially worrying as they only consider those in a Staying Put arrangement at the age of 18 and we know that these low numbers decrease even further at age 19 and again at age 20.

"We will continue to push for improvements in the status of, and support for, foster carers and work with our members to make foster care – and Staying Put – the very best they can be, as well as urging the Government to increase investment in both these vital areas."

For the full statistics, click here.

31/1/19 (updated in respect of the response by The Fostering Network 3/2/19)