BRIDGEND Council recruited twice as many foster carers in 2020 compared with figures for 2019.
The number of foster carers doubled during the pandemic, despite the service undergoing “significant challenges”.
A report by Claire Marchant, the council’s corporate director for social services and wellbeing, states the service “faced significant challenges during 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but during this time has sought to provide ongoing support to carers.”
The council spent £6.5 million on foster services in 2019/20.
There were nearly 400 children and young people in foster care in Bridgend in March 2021 and the council has 99 foster families.
Foster carers in Bridgend are split into two categories: “connected persons”, who have some prior connection to the children/young people they foster and foster carers who do not know them prior to becoming carers.
The council approved 16 foster carers from March 2020 to March 2021, doubling the number approved in 2019/20.
During the same period, 53 people were assessed as connected persons with 13 households being approved and 18 remaining in progress. In the previous year, 11 were approved.
“The service relies on face-to-face contact to recruit and support foster carers, which has been affected by pandemic restrictions,” a council spokesperson said.
“Despite this, the service has continued to recruit successfully and offer support online, as well as reunifying children with their families where possible.
“Virtual assessments and home tours have been carried with at least one face-to-face visit to a potential carer’s home before they have been approved. The service has also launched pre-approval training and workbooks online, as well as a virtual training hub.”
Barnardo’s Cymru revealed earlier this year that the number of children referred to their foster services increased by 30% from April to December 2020.
The charity found family breakdowns were increasing during the lockdown, with the pandemic adding pressure to vulnerable families due to job losses, increased poverty and declining mental health.
They also warned more carers must be recruited or hundreds of children will miss out on going into foster care.
Bridgend Council is currently undertaking a marketing campaign in a bid to recruit more foster carers.
In November 2019, the local authority received funds to recruit four “re-unification workers” who would support foster placements that are at risk of breaking down and help children return to their birth families.
Bridgend Council is currently seeking five “transitional foster carers” to help young people move from residential homes to long-term family or independent placements.
In 2018, it planned to recruit six transitional carers but only gained three in early 2019. Since then, one carer resigned while another stepped down to become a long-term carer.
A council spokesperson said:
“Transitional foster carers are important in bridging the gap for young people leaving a residential unit before being placed with a long-term family or independent placement.
“They are therapeutically trained so they are able to address any issues that arise, increasing the chances that the long-term placement will be successful and reducing multiple placement breakdowns and reliance on out-of-county placements.
“The council is now looking to recruit an additional five carers. This will be done through social media and publicity.
“Investment in the right accommodation, care and support for looked-after children is a key priority and this is reflected in the council’s budget of £6.4 million for fostering for 2021-22, which was approved on 24 February 2021.”