A sharp rise in complaints by children against their foster carers was revealed in the latest government figures.

Children made 1,965 complaints of abuse against their foster carers from 2021 to 2022, a staggering 24 percent increase from last year’s figures (1,585 complaints.)

The increase could be down to children feeling more empowered to talk about their treatment in placements, amid growing public and sector awareness that children’s experiences in care must be heard.

The figures are still likely to be conservative, with fear of being punished by their foster carers for speaking out and being sent back to a care home possible incentives for the 70,000 children currently in foster care to keep their maltreatment hidden.

The overall number of child abuse complaints against foster carers which include complaints made by other sources also rose, with 3,010 allegations made during 2021 and 2022, an increase of 16% from the year before (2,600 allegations).

The majority of complaints (65%) were made by children in foster care. This represented an increase of 4 percent against last year’s complaints submitted by children.

However, there was a sharp decrease in the reported number of incidents of physical restraint during the same period, from 930 to 730, representing a 27 percent drop. The data held that 82 percent of incidents between 2020 and 2021 were reported in the Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) sector, against 71 percent in the same sector between 2021 and 2022.

There is an important explainer added into the data on IFAs and reported incidents which says, “Some of the differences between sectors may be affected by variations in reporting processes between IFAs and Local Authorities (LA), but this data almost certainly includes a large amount of under reporting by LAs over the years.”

As with last year, physical abuse continued to be the most complained about (51 percent) form of maltreatment. Over the same period the number of emotional abuse allegations rose from 19 percent to 24 percent.

While more than half of the allegations resulted in no further action (52 percent), there was a 4 percent increase in the number of cases which were referred to the fostering panel (30%). Complaints deemed ‘valid’ were highest within LAs (34 percent) followed by IFAs (24 percent).

The government does not currently produce annual reports on allegations of abuse against staff and carers in other placements or care home settings in England and Wales as standard practice.

Researching Reform remains deeply concerned that a significant number of placements for children in care continue to be unsafe, and we call on the government to look into the framework supporting these placements.

You can access the data in full here.