Foster care fortnight: More support needed to help those in care thrive

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LOOKED-after children should get more support as they approach adulthood to ensure they go on to thrive beyond the care system, charities have said.

Government figures show that just 50 per cent of care leavers aged 19, 20 and 21 in Yorkshire last year were in education, employment or training. In comparison, the national level for all young people aged between 16 and 24 in the last quarter of 2017 was almost 90 per cent.

The Yorkshire Post has analysed Department for Education data on children in care ahead of Fostering Fortnight, a national campaign which starts on Monday to highlight the need for more foster carers.

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Action for Children’s fostering services manager in the North Paul Goodwin said the figure reflected the challenges that some young people face, and the need for greater support.

“Looked-after children have a much greater chance of becoming NEET (not in education, 
employment or training). It’s really critical that they receive ongoing support, assistance and guidance. A lot of the current provision is geared up for the high percentage of children for which it works – what’s lacking is the imagination and flexibility to accommodate the needs of looked- after children.”

There was a slight rise in the number of looked-after children in Yorkshire between 2016 and 2017 – from 10,080 to 10,410, Government figures show.

The number of adoptions of looked-after children fell from 630 in 2016 to 430 in 2017 – a drop of 32 per cent, despite flagship reforms introduced by David Cameron in 2016 designed to “tear down the barriers” to adoption.

About 1,080 looked-after children – 10 per cent – went ‘missing’ in 2017, although the Fostering Network said this figure “masked the true issue” as it would include instances where a foster child returned to their birth home or were away for an evening when a foster carer knew where they were.

Campaigns manager at the charity Vicki Swain said: “What is most important is that foster carers are fully supported, and that we have enough foster carers to ensure that children are matched with the most appropriate foster family.

“Local authorities are being faced with austerity and cuts in budgets. Social workers are seeing increases in their workloads.

“Children are being moved from foster care to other placements for financial reasons where the rate may be lower.

“There needs to be spending now to save in future.

“The more stability we can provide to these children now, the better their outcomes will be in future.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it wanted to make sure children in care “have the support they need”, and that included a range of measures such as a personal advisor to the age of 25, a bursary for 16 to 19-year-olds in full-time education and a higher-education bursary.