A change in the national approach to foster care could end up saving local councils as much £150 million, a new study suggests.
Foster placements funded by local councils are approximately £17,000 a year cheaper than those provided by fostering agencies, according to a report from public sector consultancy Impower. For that reason, researchers recommended an increase in the number of council foster placements.
Currently, the national average of foster cases which use local council placements is 67 per cent. The study proposed an increase to 85 per cent.
The report suggested that such a move would result in a £150 million saving for local authorities and would “improve life chances” for as many as 9,000 children.
The report also proposed changes to the recruitment process which could lead to an increased number of foster carers.
Instead of mass media recruitment campaigns, which can have a success rate of less than nine percent, the study suggests a “peer to peer” approach would be more effective. This would involve current foster carers taking an active role in recruitment by talking directly to potential candidates.
A carer featured in the report said people would “learn more from a foster carer than … from a social worker”.
The data was collated from various studies, analysis and interviews. Jeremy Cooper, the director of Impower and author of the study, said it demonstrated that local government had to “change the way its fostering service works and that starts with how it relates to and recruits foster carers”.
While he admitted that there were sometimes good reasons to use a fostering agency, the research had shown “no justification” for do so in a significant number of cases.
Earlier this year, a fostering charity announced a record high number of placements.