Shortage Of Foster Carers Costing Taxpayers Millions

Potential carers are still being urged to come forward and give children across Norfolk the chance of a better family life. Earlier this month, the Evening News highlighted the desperate need for more carers across the county and there has been a positive response, with some seven people coming forward. But still more are needed, as a shortage of foster carers is costing taxpayers millions of pounds.

More than 800 youngsters are receiving care in Norfolk, with almost 200 of them placed with agency carers. This can mean they are separated from brothers and sisters or placed miles away from their own family and friends.

For every local foster carer recruited, the council saves at least £135 a week, compared with agency rates of about £7,020 each year. If 100 new carers came forward, it would create savings of more than £700,000, which could be spent on other vital children’s services. It would also allow more children to be fostered closer to their homes.

Recent Department for Education and Skills figures showed 3,700 children were placed for adoption in the year ending March 31, 2006, compared to 3,800 the previous year. The Government also missed its target to increase the proportion of children placed with a family within 12 months of a decision to put them up for adoption.

But the number of children in care who had three or more foster homes during the year fell slightly to 12pc, down from 13pc last year

Children’s charity NCH said the figures showed the situation for children in care was “still dire” and called for immediate government action to give them the same chance in life as others.

Maureen Daley, director of children’s services for NCH eastern region, said: “The government must act immediately if these youngsters are to ever get the same life chances as others. Children in care are still being failed by the system – hardly any young people leave home at 16, yet one in four children leave care at this age. For many, this follows a life of constant upheaval, instability and rejection.

“The small improvements that have been made are simply not enough. For children in care there is no time to lose.”

Rosalie Monbiot, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are always looking for foster carers and we would be very happy to welcome anybody who would consider fostering because it is most rewarding and foster carers are wonderful people.”