Local authorities and fostering agencies must recruit younger foster carers to help defuse a “ticking time bomb” of care, children’s minister Tim Loughton will warn tonight.
In a speech at the Fostering Network’s Celebration of Fostering event, Loughton will say that, with more children entering care and more foster carers retiring or approaching retirement age, agencies must do more to recruit a younger workforce.
Agencies should target social workers, nurses and teachers as potential foster carers, Loughton said, warning that the current shortage of foster carers across the UK – which the Fostering Network estimates to be about 8750 this year alone – will only grow if younger, skilled carers are not found.
Soon-to-be-published data, collected by the Department for Education, will suggest that social workers involved in selecting and approving foster carers may be biased against foster carers with younger children.
“More children are coming into care, with varied and often very challenging needs,” Loughton said. “We need more foster carers to come forward to deal with the ticking time bomb as existing foster carers come up to retirement.
“We need to be recruiting from the widest pool of potential carers, making it as easy as possible for people who are able to meet children’s needs to come forward.”
The children’s minister will also use his speech at the London event to urge big employers to follow the example of Tesco and O2, which have both introduced flexible working policies designed to help foster carers.
“Employers should give foster carers the same rights as they do with any other parent – it’s completely wrong to penalise them in effect for their commitment to turning around the most vulnerable children’s lives,” Loughton said.
“Tesco and O2 have set the standard for others to follow by introducing foster family friendly policies and I am delighted that the Department for Education will be making it easier for its staff who want to foster alongside employment.”
The government is also planning to introduce new rules that will stop fostering services from imposing blanket bans on foster carers taking on other paid work.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, echoed Loughton’s call: “We join the government in calling on all employers to be more foster family friendly.”
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