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Ofsted: Lack of foster carers mean children missing out on support

A continued lack of capacity in the foster care sector is leading to vulnerable children missing out on the care and support they need, Ofsted says.

Despite numbers of fostering households and foster carers in England being at their highest levels ever, these increases are not keeping up with demand in the sector, according to Ofsted's annual fostering statistics.

The number of foster carers in England has increased by only 4 per cent since 2014, while the number of children in foster care has increased some 11 per cent. And while the number of fostering households and carers has gone up, Ofsted research suggests that the range of carers available are not always able to meet children's increasingly complex needs.

As the number of children in care continues to grow, matching them with the right carers becomes increasingly difficult. This makes it more likely that very vulnerable children will face placement breakdowns and further disruption to their lives.

Meanwhile, the number of family and friends fostering households is at its highest level yet. These carers are a vital part of the system – but their impact on overall capacity is limited by the nature of their role.

Although record levels of enquiries were received from prospective fostering households last year, statistics show these are not translating into applications. Of 160,000 initial enquiries from prospective fostering households, only around 10,000 resulted in applications – a decrease on previous years.

For the annual fostering statistics, click here. For comment by the Association of Directors of Children's Services, click here.