The biggest revolution of the capital’s foster care service in a generation has been launched, as six East London authorities combine efforts for the first time.

It comes as concerns of a growing crisis in the service unfolds with more than 9,700 children in the capital in need of a foster care place.

Until now, the city’s local authorities have either found homes for vulnerable children and young people on their own or turned to expensive private agencies.

Local Community Fostering is a consortium of six northeast London boroughs (Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, and Tower Hamlets).

The new services will work in partnership in East London to support prospective foster carers as they begin their journey, with the aim of recruiting more foster carers, improving the recruitment experience, and the outcomes for foster carers and the children and young people they care for.

Over the past decade there has been a dramatic fall in the number of Londoners coming forward to become foster carers.

In 2014 there were 3,685 total approved fostering households but by the end of March 2023 (the last available figures) there were 2,560, an overall drop of 1,125 of around a third.

A survey carried out for Foster Care Fortnight found that space may be the biggest issue.

Almost one in three (31 percent) of London adults said they were unlikely to become a foster carer in the next five years, saying a reason for this was the lack of space to be a foster carer (as children aged two or over require a spare room.)

It is estimated that seven out of every 10 people who approach councils interested in becoming a foster carer drop out before completing the process.

Councillor Oscar Ford, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

“By joining forces with our neighbouring local authorities and pooling our resources we’ll be better able to address the shortage of foster carers and encourage local people to come forward.

“We’ll be tackling some of the issues and myths that have stopped people from coming forward, such as being too young or too old, or being single.

"We welcome people from all backgrounds to put themselves forward to find out how rewarding fostering can be.”

The YouGov Poll of 1051, adult Londoners in April also found:

  • one in five (20 percent) Londoners have considered fostering or have fostered in the past, but only 4 per cent have actually fostered.
  • amongst those who have fostered and/or would consider fostering in the next five years, the top reasons for this were to give a child a better future (58 percent) and to help a child escape a challenging situation (50 percent)
  • just over one in five (23 percent) said they would consider fostering for the financial package available
  • amongst those unlikely to become a foster carer in the next five years, nearly one in four (37 percent) said they felt too old or too young to foster 

On Saturday (May 25 2024) The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Walk event took place at The Lab E20, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.

Among the guests were retired Olympian Fatima Whitbread, deputy leader Councillor Gillian Ford, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Oscar Ford and Mayor and Mayoress Councillor Gerry O’Sullivan and Susan O’Sullivan.

Published: 29 May 2024