Barnardo’s issues urgent appeal for foster carers as referrals rise by a quarter

Barnardo’s is urgently calling for more people to consider becoming foster carers, after the number of children referred to the charity’s fostering services across the UK jumped by over a quarter in 12 months. *

The UK’s largest children’s charity has launched its annual Fostering Focus campaign, which runs throughout the whole of September, and warns of a growing shortage of foster carers, leaving vulnerable children without safe, stable and loving families.

With latest statistics showing the number of children in care in the UK now standing at over 100,000 including a record high of over 80,000 in England [1], figures released by Barnardo’s show that between August 2021 and July 2022, the number of children referred to its UK-wide fostering services was 19,996. This is a rise of 28 per cent, compared with the previous 12-month period.

Barnardo’s has also seen a significant increase in children aged 11 and older referred to its England, Wales and Scotland fostering services, with a rise of 29 per cent from the period of August 2021 to July 2022.

The urgent need for new foster carers comes at a time when Barnardo’s has seen a decline in the number of people coming forward to be foster carers. With the average age of a Barnardo’s foster carer aged 55 and older, the charity says the advancing age of many of its foster carers means an increasing number are now retiring.

Meanwhile, a new YouGov survey for Barnardo’s encouragingly shows that a quarter (24 per cent) of adults in the UK would consider fostering a child in the next five years. However, only 11 percent of those who would consider fostering in the next 5 years would consider fostering children aged 11-15 and just 3 per cent for children aged 16 to 17, suggesting that prospective foster carers may be more inclined to support younger children.

When those who wouldn’t consider were asked about the concerns of fostering, key concerns included 48 per cent of adults who said they were either too old or too young; 31 per cent who said they didn’t have what it takes and 27 per cent who said they couldn’t afford to foster a child for financial reasons.

The survey also shows misconceptions remain in the eyes of some adults about fostering, with a quarter (25 per cent) of people agreeing a person should already have children of their own before becoming a foster carer, and just under a third (28 per cent) of people agreeing that an adult who is 21 is old enough to be a foster carer. In actual fact, Barnardo’s points out there is no requirement for a foster carer to already have a child of their own, and the minimum legal age to become a foster carer is 21 with no upper age limit.

The charity says it is vital to increase the number of foster carers to keep up with the growing numbers of children entering the care system, and to ensure they can be placed with a loving, stable and safe family who can meet their needs. Through its Fostering Focus campaign, Barnardo’s hopes to hear from people from all backgrounds and communities from around the UK.

Barnardo’s is also urging the Government to make fundamental changes to improve care, support and outcomes for vulnerable children, based on the findings of the ‘Independent Review of Children’s Social Care’. As part of this, it is calling on the Government to establish a new national foster carer recruitment programme for England as recommended by the review, with the aim of approving 9,000 new foster carers in the next three years.[3].

Barnardo’s CEO Lynn Perry MBE said:

“With record numbers of children in need of care and support, we urgently need more people to consider becoming foster carers. At Barnardo’s many of our most experienced foster carers are now retiring or nearing retirement age, meaning it’s especially important that others come forward.

“Foster care can provide vulnerable children with the love, care and support they so desperately need to overcome challenges and work towards a positive future, but our new survey shows there are still many misconceptions about what it takes to provide this vital role.

“At Barnardo’s we welcome passionate individuals from all walks of life, and all communities. If you are over 21, have a spare room, are a UK resident and have the time and commitment to care for a child, then you could help transform their life chances.”

Barnardo’s Foster Carer Christine Claire, a civil servant who lives in Croydon, started her fostering journey with Barnardo’s shortly after the UK went into lockdown in March 2020. She is currently supporting a 17-year-old foster child from Eritrea.

Christine said: “As a foster carer for Barnardo’s, I’ve been caring for older children and teenagers for over two and a half years and it has added richness and vitality to my life. Through them I have been able to learn about new languages, cultures and how to communicate and connect with young people at different emotional levels. If you are able to support them with their self-esteem and can show compassion, you will see care-experienced young people are wonderful human beings.”

Barnardo’s has over 100 years of experience in fostering. Experts provide all the training needed and provide support 24/7. Foster carers will also get financial support, including a carer’s allowance to help make a positive difference to a child’s life.

To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s please visit our website at www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or call our team on 0800 0277 280.

Watch this video of Christine talking about her fostering experience with Barnardo’s at youtu.be/wmJxRoAwCy4

References

*Data from Barnardo’s UK Fostering services

Figures released by Barnardo’s show that between August 2021 and July 2022, the number of children referred to its UK-wide fostering services was 19,996. This is a rise of 28 per cent, compared with the previous 12-month period when the figure was 15,642. In England the rise in referrals was 28 per cent, in Wales 18 per cent and in Scotland 50 per cent.

[1] Children in care UK statistics

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/childrens-social-care-data-in-england-2021/main-findings-childrens-social-care-in-england-2021

Click to access child-social-care-19-20.pdf

https://www.gov.scot/publications/childrens-social-work-statistics-2019-20/pages/3/

https://gov.wales/children-looked-after-local-authorities-april-2020-march-2021

[3] A new national fostering recruitment programme (p133) https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/The-independent-review-of-childrens-social-care-Final-report.pdf

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

Total sample size was 2,052 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26 – 29 August 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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