Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Fostering in Leeds saw a “very positive” year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, a Kirkstall councillor has said.
Leeds City Council had braced itself for a difficult time finding people willing to be foster carers during the pandemic.
But the council’s executive member in charge of social care said the people of Leeds stepped up to the challenge, with the city seeing a net increase in the number of carers in its fostering service.
Coun Venner warned, however, that more BAME foster carers were still needed, and work was ongoing to make this happen.
The comments follow a report from Leeds City Council officers, which claimed there had been an increase during the 2020/21 municipal year of around 20 percent in the numbers of people expressing an interest in becoming a foster carer.
This led to 35 new mainstream foster carers, another 10 foster carers for those with complex needs, 89 new kinship carers and 10 new rent-a-room providers for young people.
In total, 121 households were de-registered from the fostering service, while 166 new households were added.
Coun Venner told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board:
“It’s a very positive story in terms of fostering in the challenging past year.
“The raw numbers of looked after children have gone up because the child population has gone up, but the rate per 10,000 is the key figure. It’s been between 75 and 79 in the past few years.
“Our foster carers have been magnificent during the pandemic. We had thought we would be scrabbling around for placements during the pandemic, but we had a really high rate of placement stability, and also foster families reporting improved relationships as a result of lockdown and spending so much time together.
“In Leeds, 34 per cent of our foster families are kinship families, compared to 20 per cent nationally. It is our aspiration wherever we can to place children first in their extended family.
“There are always things we can do better – we always need more BAME foster carers, particularly more black foster carers. That has been a priority for the past couple of years.”
A report, which went before board members, stated: “Covid has made our work more challenging, but with the support of our carers and colleagues, we have been able to maintain children’s placements with foster families. COVID has delayed some of our service development activities and these are covered in the sections below.
“The need to prioritise support for carers and our children has meant that some of the service development activities we had planned have been delayed or paused during the last year, these are back on track now and will be progressed during the next 12 months.”