Page last updated at 23:04 GMT, Sunday, 10 May 2009 00:04 UK

Ageing 'crisis' for foster carers

The charity says virtually no one fosters in their 20s

A fostering charity has warned of an impending crisis in foster care in Scotland because of a shortage of carers.

The Fostering Network said more than two thirds of existing carers are approaching potential retirement age.

A report found that 69% of foster carers are in their 50s, 60s or 70s.

But the Scottish Government said the charity's report was not accurate, and there would be plenty of new foster carers in coming years.

The charity claimed there was already a shortage of 1,700 foster families in Scotland and the situation was set to get worse.

It said the figures suggested a huge proportion of carers might choose to retire over the next 10 to 15 years.

Only 5% are in their 30s, with very few people fostering while in their 20s.

For the sake of the thousands of children who need the support and care of a foster family each year, it's crucial more people come forward
Sara Lurie
Fostering Network Scotland

The charity's report also showed that since 2000, the average age of female foster carers has risen from 46 to 54. For male foster carers the average age has risen from 47 to 55 over the same period.

Sara Lurie, director of the Fostering Network Scotland, said: "It's extremely worrying that such a very high proportion of the foster care workforce is potentially so close to retiring.

"For the sake of the thousands of children who need the support and care of a foster family each year, it's crucial more people come forward.

"Older people can bring experience and skills from previous jobs, but it's essential we also appeal to the untapped pool of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are particularly well placed to offer long-term care to younger children.

"This report also shows that it is vital measures are put in place now by national and local governments to ensure that there is not an even more severe shortage of foster carers in 10 to 15 years time."

Viable career

The charity has urged the Scottish Government to introduce regulation and funding so that fostering services are required to give all foster carers adequate financial support.

It claimed this would make fostering a viable career option right across the country.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "This is simply not an accurate reflection of the situation.

"People are constantly becoming foster carers so there will be great numbers of new carers over the next 10 to 15 years, regardless of the number reaching retirement age.

"We recognise the vital contribution that foster carers make to the lives of some of our most vulnerable young people and are committed to supporting them and encouraging more people to take up this challenging and immensely rewarding role.

"That's why we are supporting The Fostering Network's campaign to encourage more people to consider fostering."

The Fostering Network sample of 1,190 foster carers from Scotland showed that 5% of foster carers are in their 30s, 27% in their 40s, 42% in their 50s, 23% in their 60s and 4% in their 70s.

There are 6,157 children and young people in the care system on any given day in Scotland.

More than 4,200 (69%) live with 3,200 foster families.

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