New Ofsted stats shows more foster carers leaving compared to new joiners


Recent figures published by Ofsted show that significantly more foster carers have chosen to leave the role this year compared to the number of new joiners. 

The annual Fostering in England statistics highlight the huge pressures currently facing foster care and the urgent need for new foster carers. Numbers are continuing to decline against a backdrop of record numbers of children in need of fostering families. 

During the last financial year a total of 4,080 fostering households were approved while 5,130 stopped fostering – a loss of 1,050 fostering households

The figures show a concerning downward trend in the number of foster carer applications and newly approved foster carers over the last five years. The number of applications received from prospective fostering households in 2022 to 2023 was around 8,000. This is the lowest number in several years and 18% lower than 2018 to 2019. 

Vulnerable children and young people are at increasing risk of being placed in homes which do not meet their needs. We simply do not have enough fostering families, in the right location, with the right skills and experience to care for every child. 

The Fostering Network has estimated that a further 6,000 fostering families are needed in England to ensure all fostered children can live with the right family for them.  

We welcome the extra funding for the recruitment of additional foster carers in the Government’s ‘Stable Homes Built on Love’ strategy, but the number of foster carers leaving each year needs equal focus through a robust retention strategy.    

We need to see increased support for existing foster carers to ensure they are adequately and consistently supported, or we risk losing even more. This includes foster carers being fully trained and supported, treated as an equal member of the team around the child, as well as being adequately compensated to cover the full costs of caring for a child and their time, expertise and skills. 

Sarah Thomas, chief executive of The Fostering Network said: “Once again the Ofsted data shows the immense pressure the fostering system is under – and there simply aren’t enough foster carers to meet the rising number of children coming into care. 

“For the second year in a row we are seeing a net decrease in the number of foster carers available, as a significantly higher number have chosen to leave the role this year compared to new joiners.  

“Recruitment of foster carers is the most crucial issue facing fostering services across UK. Wales is leading the way with a collaborative nation-wide approach through  the creation of Foster Wales. 

“As the leading organisation for foster care we are calling for a UK-wide strategy to address both the urgent need to recruit and retain foster carers. The Ofsted data indicates that these annual losses will continue unless urgent action of a much greater scale is taken.” 

Notes to editors   

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About The Fostering Network  

The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of children who are fostered to make foster care the very best it can be. With 59,000 foster carers and 450 fostering service members, we represent three-quarters of foster carers in the UK and connect everyone involved in fostering.