Urgent appeal for thousands more carers

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One in four foster children in Wigan are having to move homes more than twice a year, new figures have revealed.

According to figures obtained under freedom of information laws by charity Action for Children, 163 of the 588 children in foster care in the borough had more than two homes in between April 2015 and March 2016.

Of those, 110 were moved twice, while 53 were moved between three and seven times in the same 12 month period.

Two foster children had seven homes each in just one year while three had six.

In total, 27.7 per cent of the 588 foster children in Wigan had more than one home over the year, higher than the North West average of 26.1 per cent and the UK average of 26.8 per cent.

James Winterbottom, director of children’s services at Wigan Council said: “We are always working to provide the best possible care for our children in Wigan borough and in our fostering service our staff carefully match children to the skill sets of foster carers.

“In emergency situations this is not always possible but all foster carers do have robust link officer support from their social workers and the fostering service has a bespoke package of tailored training to assist carers.

“As part of our commitment to provide the best care possible, we proactively undertook a scrutiny led piece of work on this very issue of multiple placements earlier in the year.

“The report identified a range of strengths in our local approach as well as some recommendations for further improvement.

“We are now working to delivering these recommendations and will be reporting progress back to the scrutiny committee during the year.”

Action for Children has said that being moved regularly between foster homes can affect their social skills, educational outcomes and employment prospects – impacting on their behaviour as well as emotional and mental health.

It has launched an urgent appeal to find thousands more foster carers who can provide a secure and loving home to children who have experienced trauma and loss.

John Egan, Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children, said: “We know of children as young as four who have had to move three times in less than a year before finding a stable family home.

“For children in care moving home means more than fitting into a new place – it means leaving behind family, friends, school and everything that is familiar to start over again.

“It is impossible to imagine what this must be like for a child or young person, who has already had the toughest start in life, to have to move several times a year until they find the right foster carer.”