Foster care in Bedford is facing a shortfall as no one has applied to become a carer in over a year

More carers needed to stem the current shortfall in the town as a nationwide drive is launched as part of Foster Care Fortnight

Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:59 pm

No-one in Bedford applied to become a foster carer over a 12-month period, despite more than 100 people expressing an interest.

A nationwide drive for thousands more foster families has been launched as part of Foster Care Fortnight - which runs until Sunday (May 23).

Authorities in the area received around 135 initial enquiries about fostering between April 2019 and March last year, but no applications were submitted in that time, the latest Ofsted data shows.

The Fostering Network says more than 8,600 more fosterers are needed across the UK

Social media and promotional campaigns have contributed to a growing interest across the UK but attracting and retaining suitable carers who can cope with the complexities of fostering is proving a challenge, experts say.

At the end of March 2020, there were around 85 households opening their doors to vulnerable children in the area, with an estimated 90 youngsters living with foster families.

Of those households, 20 were approved to offer permanent places, with 10 given permission to foster children of family or friends.

But recruitment difficulties and an ageing carer population could be “storing up trouble for the future”, Ofsted has warned.

Martin Leitch, head of fostering operations at Five Rivers Child Care, which operates in Bedford, said: “Children being taken into care is a sensitive and complex issue and something that people, generally, don’t want to think about.

"Research has revealed that there has been a dramatic increase in referrals to social services since the start of the pandemic, and we are certain that it will continue to rise as it has done over the last several years.

“We are in desperate need of more foster families across Bedford to care for children either on a temporary or permanent basis.

"If you’re a kind, compassionate person interested in fostering, do something different this year and get in touch to find out more.

"Fostering comes in many forms and can be tailored towards the needs and lifestyle of foster parent, or parents, and those in their care. Foster carers can work flexibly as respite or short-term foster carers, or they can have foster children and young people living with them long-term, meaning they would remain in care until they feel ready to live independently."

The Fostering Network says more than 8,600 more fosterers are needed across the UK to ensure children in care are placed in safe and stable environments suitable for their needs.

Within the households approved for fostering in Bedford, there were 145 carers - 52 per cent aged over 50 - offering up to 150 places for looked after children at the end of March last year.

Figures for 2019-20 also show that 35 children in the area moved between placements at least three times.