Fostered children in England made 1,585 allegations of abuse against their foster carers from 2020 to 2021, the latest government data has revealed.

A further 1,015 complaints about suspected child abuse perpetrated by foster carers were made by “other sources” according to Ofsted’s “Fostering in England” release published in November. The sources were not identified in the release.

The majority of complaints (61%) were made by children in foster care.

The data, which has been buried right at the bottom of the release, found that most complaints were made against local authority (LA) foster carers, with slightly fewer complaints levied at carers working for independent fostering agencies (IFA).

Of the 2,600 allegations recorded, 1,480 complaints were made against LA foster carers, while 1,100 complaints of child abuse were raised against independent foster carers. The remaining 20 allegations of abuse do not appear to be accounted for in the release.

Within local authority complaints, 51% of child abuse allegations were resolved with no further action; 19% were monitored for an agreed period; and 31% were referred to a fostering panel for review over ongoing concerns.

Outcomes of investigations into IFA foster carer allegations were similar to local authority complaints: 58% of child abuse allegations were resolved with no further action; 11% were monitored for an agreed period; and 31% were referred to a fostering panel for review over ongoing concerns.

Physical abuse was the most reported form of violence against children, with 53% of all allegations against foster carers relating to physical violence. Allegations of sexual abuse accounted for 8% of registered complaints.

Equally significant in the release was a recorded spike in the number of individuals looking to foster children in England.

The release recorded an all-time-high for the number of fostering inquiries by households in the UK. In the year ending 31 March 2021, there were 160,635 initial enquiries from prospective fostering households, representing a 55% increase since 2014 to 2015 (103,355). The release noted that by far the most inquiries were made to IFAs – making up 79% of all applications to foster children – where financial compensation for fostering is typically greater.

There has been no robust research in this area, but Researching Reform remains deeply concerned that the country’s growing poverty rate is steering people towards the fostering sector because it offers substantial financial packages for carers.

Researching Reform remains troubled by cases we are alerted to, of individuals fostering disabled children in particular to claim financial assistance intended for the child but which is used for other purposes. We have been made aware that some individuals take the view that such children are “easy to look after” because “they sit in a wheelchair or are immobile” for most of the day.

While we have every sympathy for families living under the poverty line, children in care should never be exploited.

Cases of child abuse and maltreatment are not exclusive to the fostering sector. Earlier research has shown that large numbers of children in residential care have also been subjected to abuse. This is far from acceptable for Britain’s so-called child protection sector.

To the children who have suffered – it must have taken an enormous amount of courage to complain about abuse at the hands of your carers, and Researching Reform stands with you.

Many thanks to Dana for alerting us to the release.

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