Fostering services underfunded by £580m, report says.

A further £580 million is needed to develop a properly resourced fostering service that meets the needs of children in care a...

A further £580m is needed to develop a properly resourced fostering service that meets the needs of children in care a report out today has claimed.

Produced by Loughborough University, and commissioned by The Fostering Network, it provides updated figures to a 2005 report estimating the cost of a well run fostering service.

Owing to real terms investment in fostering over the last five years, this figure has dropped from £683.3m but the report makes the point that in-house council run fostering services have been the main beneficiaries of this extra money, despite independent fostering providers finding it easier to recruit carers.

The report took into account the costs needed to provide not only payments to all foster carers at The Fostering Network minimum rates but also the cost of fees and allowances, training, respite provision and the cost of specialist needs such as equipment.

It found that to provide all this would cost £1.93bn across the UK per year. Current expenditure is £1.35bn. This works out at a weekly UK cost of £716.64m.

While the number of foster carers has increased by 12.6% on average across the UK, in England this rise was only 7.4%. The number of children placed in foster care in 2009 jumped by 5.2% while the number of children placed with friends and families has decreased 13% since 2004.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said if the numbers of children entering foster care continued to increase at the rates seen in 2009 local councils would not be able to cope.

“We want to make the point to the government that although we are existing in a tight financial climate they must continue to protect vulnerable children and that means ensuring there are no cuts to frontline services and if more children are being taken into care then more resources must be provided.”

“Foster carers are caring for children with an enormous array of needs and if we are to help them and stop them entering the criminal justice system we need to maintain and increase the training for foster carers,” he said.

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