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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Increase in children being taken into care in Cumbria

The number of children being taken into care is shooting up – with foster care costs rocketing across the county.

There are now 676 children in care in Cumbria – up from 618 during the same period in 2013.

Cumbria County Council officers claim recent high-profile cases of neglect, such as Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter, are one reason for the spike in the number of children being removed from their birth families.

The figures come after the News & Star launched a fostering campaign to encourage employers to help out potential foster carers.

We teamed up with Cumbria County Council to encourage companies to revise their HR policies to say they will provide up to five days’ paid leave for training, and extend the same rights to foster parents as for natural parents.

Children’s services bosses at the county council are urging new foster carers to come forward to provide more placements for the growing number of children in the care system.

A spokesman said: “We have more children coming into the care of children’s services than the number of in-house foster placements available, meaning we’re having to make increasing use of independent fostering agencies.

“The increase in the number of children coming into care is likely to be the result of a combination of factors including increased levels of poverty and neglect associated with the economic downturn, as well as a general trend towards early intervention by social workers to protect children from harm.”

Figures revealed by the authority this week show the situation has caused financial pressures within the children’s services budget – with costs breaching the £6.5m limit on spending during the 2013/14 financial year. The bill rocketed by £527,000 between December and April this year.

The figure is made worse by the authority having to hire places through external foster care agencies at up to double the cost of in-house foster care homes.

The authority has been running a initiative to recruit more foster carers.

The council spokesman added: “As well as helping to manage pressure on budgets, having more in-house foster carers means we have a better chance of finding children the right type of placement in the right location.”

Councillor Anne Burns, the council’s children’s services chief, said she would welcome “with open arms” anyone who was considering becoming a foster carer. She said: “We are trying to work with parents to ensure they understand their role. But where that fails, we need to have a team of amazing foster carers with different skills to place our most vulnerable children and young people with.”

More information about becoming a foster carer is available by calling 0303 333 1216 or visiting www.cumbria.gov.uk/fostering.

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