Wigan bucks trend amid concern for foster care during pandemic

More people have inquired about becoming foster carers in Wigan during the coronavirus pandemic, bucking the regional trend.

Children’s charity Barnardo’s raised concerns that the number of youngsters needing foster care in the North West has risen by 48 per cent during the pandemic, while the number of people looking to become foster parents plummeted by nearly half.

It said this had created a “state of emergency” as children who may have experienced abuse and neglect may have to wait for places with loving foster families.

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But Wigan Council said more people in the borough were actually interested in becoming foster carers.

More people are interested in becoming foster carers in WiganMore people are interested in becoming foster carers in Wigan
More people are interested in becoming foster carers in Wigan

It carried out 17 initial virtual visits in May, compared with nine in April, 25 potential carers were in assessment at stage one and 15 were in assessment at stage two.

It did not have figures available on the number of children needing foster care.

Eleni Ioannides, interim director of children’s services at the council, said: “Ensuring our children in care are placed in welcoming, loving homes remains a key priority for us.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has placed an increased pressure on our fostering service, with some carers needing to shield or isolate and therefore unable to accept new placements.

“However, we have seen an increase in people enquiring to be foster carers during this time and although this is very positive, we are keen to hear from more people now as we look to recover from Covid-19.

“At the beginning of lockdown, we quickly adapted the services so we could continue to support existing foster carers and also take new enquiries from those wanting to help our children.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to ensure the same standard of service, care and support can be delivered borough-wide despite these unprecedented times.”

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From March 1 to April 23, 585 referrals for foster care were made to Barnardo’s North West Fostering Service, up from 395 for the same period in 2019.

Meanwhile, the number of inquiries from people looking to become foster parents fell by 46 per cent, from 39 to 21.

This picture was replicated across Barnardo’s fostering services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The charity believes the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has increased pressure on vulnerable families.

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Rebecca Quigley, operations manager for Barnardo’s North West Fostering Service, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable families the hardest, with many reaching crisis point. This has created a state of emergency, as more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family, while fewer adults are coming forward as potential foster carers.”

Barnardo’s is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to consider fostering.

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