The Fostering Network charity has published a report revealing that fostering services are underfunded by £580 million in the UK .
Fostering is under immense pressure due to year-on-year increases in the number of children coming into care and the chronic shortage of 10,000 foster carers. To add to the problem, the government has removed previously ring fenced funding protecting fostering and given local authorities more flexibility on how to make savings.
The charity is urging the Government to ensure additional funds are made available for the increasing number of children needing foster homes when it conducts its Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn.
Commenting on the launch of the report which was co-authored with Loughborough University, Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: "Services for children in care have been underfunded for too many years and to make cuts will mean a foster care system already struggling will become unsustainable and unable to cope.
"When foster care works, it works really well, and outcomes are improving. However, children in care are still over-represented in prison populations, more likely to suffer from mental health problems or be homeless. Failure to maintain funds and invest in good quality foster care is a false economy.
"Fostering is facing real challenges with more children needing to live with foster carers than ever before. We are calling on the Government to ensure funding will be made available in the future so that foster carers are properly supported and the children they look after do not suffer."
The additional £580 million is required to ensure that all foster carers are given the Fostering Network's minimum recommended allowance for all the children in their care and to cover the costs of looking after fostered children.
The extra funding would also pay for the recruitment of sufficient foster carers to meet demand and for all foster carers to be provided with post-approval training. In addition it would fund specialist help and advice to be made available to foster carers and for career foster carers to be paid a fee throughout the year.
The report, Update to the Cost of Foster Care, was written by Lisa Holmes and Jean Soper from the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University and is based on government data from all four nations in the UK and academic and economic sources.