Responding to the latest looked after children statistics from the Department for Education in England, Jackie Sanders, director of policy at The Fostering Network, said: ‘Having campaigned for a change in legislation to allow fostered young people to stay living with their foster carers until the age of 21, we are pleased that these latest figures show a continued rise in young people “staying put”. However, there is still plenty of room for growth.
'The fact that 30 per cent of care leavers aged 19 who were eligible for staying put are now living with their former foster carers is a step in the right direction, but believe that there are many more young people who would benefit from staying put. We will be continuing to push the Westminster Government to provide adequate resources so that local authorities can provide many more young people the opportunity to stay with their foster carers if they so wish. Finances must not prevent any young people staying put when this would be in their best interest. We will also seek to ensure that staying put is being implemented consistently throughout England.
‘The statistics also show that there are now over 70,000 children in care in England – a new record – and that this rise is due to more unaccompanied asylum seeking children being looked after in England. This has increased from 2,740 in 2015 to 4,210 in 2016 – a jump of over 50 per cent.
‘Foster carers provide children with stability, care, love and support, and it is these things which many unaccompanied asylum seeking children so desperately need when they arrive in the UK having been separated from their family and, in many cases, having experienced severe trauma.
‘We know that for some areas, the increase in the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children has created significant pressure on resources, including finding the right foster family. However, following the introduction of the Government’s interim transfer protocol and with sufficient funding from the Government, and suitable training and resources from organisations like The Fostering Network, we believe the care system will cope with these increased numbers, and will help these children to settle into life in the UK and to thrive.
‘In order to provide stable longer-term support to refugee children, we would particularly encourage people who have experience of working with children who have suffered trauma or loss to apply to become foster carers. However, don’t rule yourself out before contacting your local fostering service to see if your skills and experiences can provide loving and stable homes for children. You can find your local fostering service at thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/couldyoufoster.’