Foster carers urgently needed due to rise in children in care – Barnardo’s

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More foster carers are urgently needed to look after spiralling numbers of children in the care system, a leading charity has warned.

The number of children in care in England has jumped more than a quarter in a decade, Barnardo’s said ahead of its 10th annual fostering campaign, beginning on Monday.

The situation is made more acute as the number of approved carers in England fell by almost 1,000 between 2016 and 2017, Ofsted figures show.

Mother and daughter reality TV stars Debbie Douglas and Lydia Bright, of The Only Way Is Essex, are fronting the Barnardo’s appeal

As a family they have fostered more than 250 children over 25 years, with Douglas saying: “Knowing you can provide that loving family for a child when they need it most is so rewarding and can really help to transform their lives – and yours.”

Among the complex reasons for the rise are increasing child poverty, a lack of early intervention, and more awareness of abuse and neglect, Barnardo’s said.

The charity suggested increasing house prices, a lack of spare rooms, birth children staying at home longer and looking after elderly relatives were reasons for the drop in carers.

Helen Elward, from Rugby, Warwickshire, has looked after almost 40 children over the past eight years – many of them abused and vulnerable.

Foster carers shortage
Foster carer Helen Elward, 62, from Rugby, Warwickshire, has helped eight children (Barnardo’s/PA)

“They’ve gone on to university, established their own businesses and started families. Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them – perhaps they’ve never had that before.”

The number of children in care in England jumped from 59,370 to 75,420 between March 2008 and March 2018 – a 27% rise, the charity said.

In the same period Wales saw an increase of 38% (4,635 to 6,405) and Northern Ireland a rise of 28% (2,433 to 3,109).

In Scotland, there were roughly the same number of children in care in 2017 as in 2008 (14,886 to 14,897).

Chief executive Javed Khan said: “At Barnardo’s we find loving families for vulnerable children in communities across the UK, and we give foster carers the training and support they need.

“Being a foster carer can be a challenge but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

“Incredible things happen when you believe in children.”

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