Retiring foster carers are not being replaced quickly enough, despite rises in the numbers of looked after children needing a placement. In a speech at the Fostering Network’s Celebration of Fostering at the Royal Festival Hall this evening, Children’s Minister Tim Laughton will warn that the shortfall in carers is creating a “ticking time bomb” for the care system.
Mr Loughton will argue that the system will face increasing challenges over coming years and that fostering services will need to draw carers from a wider pool of potential candidates. He will urge fostering providers “not to be blinkered” when considering if someone would be an appropriate foster carer.
The fact that the UK has an ageing workforce is expected to lead to a greater turnover of foster carers, the majority of whom are currently in their late forties to mid fifties. The Fostering Network has said that an extra 8,750 foster carers are needed across the UK this year. The Network said that 98 per cent of fostering services are looking for more foster families for teenagers than last year and that three out of five services are “desperately seeking foster carers”. Children in care who have SEN tend to be amongst the most difficult children to place for fostering or adoption.
Mr Laughton will call on fostering providers to target people in the caring professions, such as nursing, social work and teaching, as potential carers. He will also argue that services need to do more to target younger carers.
In addition he will call on major employers to provide foster carers with the same rights to flexible working as other parents.
The Government’s forthcoming Children’s and Families Bill will include a number of measures aimed at improving the recruitment and retention of foster carers, including legislation to expand flexible working and shared parental leave.
Under new rules, fostering services will not be able to impose blanket bans which prevent foster carers from undertaking additional paid work, except in specific situations.
New statutory guidance will be introduced, aimed at making services more responsive to the needs of foster carers in employment, including holding meetings with carers during evenings and weekends.
Mr Laughton will announce that the Department for Education is to be the first government department to introduce a “robust foster family friendly policy”. The Department will also publish advice to help other employers do more to enable their staff to foster.