Wigan-born writer Lemn Sissay urges people to consider fostering as ‘misconceptions put people off’

Misconceptions including being single or too old are said to be putting people off fostering at a time of dire need for more carers, as Wigan-born poet Lemn Sissay fronts a new recruitment campaign.
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Olympian Fatima Whitbread and radio presenter Pandora Christie – who both had experience living in care as children – also joined efforts to get more people to consider fostering.

The National Fostering Group (NFG), which describes itself as the largest network of independent fostering agencies in the UK, said its research had shown thousands of carers were needed across Great Britain.

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Lemn, who has previously detailed his experiences in the care system in Wigan borough, said: “A child will test you emotionally, spiritually, financially, throughout your life, so to foster or adopt a child is the greatest thing a human being can do for another.”

The NFG described the care system as being “at a critical point” and said information it had received from 128 local authority fostering agencies in England, Scotland and Wales suggested almost two-thirds had seen a rise in young people going into care in the last 12 months.

An estimated 10,500 foster carers are now “urgently needed across the country”, it said.

But its polling of 2,000 adults suggested less than a fifth (14 per cent) of people would consider fostering – a figure the NFG said could be higher if certain misconceptions were not held.

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More than a third (34 per cent) of people felt they were too old to foster – with most of those who said this in the 65-plus age bracket, but 18 per cent aged between 55 and 64 and 11 per cent aged 45 to 54, the NFG said.

Other reasons included already having their own children (13 per cent), being single (13 per cent), working (11 per cent) and being disabled (nine per cent), it added.

NFG’s chief executive Steve Christie said: “Many people perceive there to be barriers to becoming a foster carer that simply aren’t true.

“We will consider people regardless of age, marital status, gender, sexuality, disability or employment status.

“Anyone who has room in their home and their heart could be a foster carer, and most of our foster carers say that fostering is the best thing they have ever done.”