More foster carers needed in region

VULNERABLE and often abused children are being placed with foster parents long distances from family and friends because of a shortage of carers in Suffolk and Essex, it has emerged.

VULNERABLE and often abused children are being placed with foster parents long distances from family and friends because of a shortage of carers in Suffolk and Essex, it has emerged.

The number of children in care has risen to almost 700 in Suffolk and around 1,300 in Essex - but in both counties the lack of foster carers is putting pressure on already fragile situations.

Figures released today reveal nearly one in three of those youngsters are placed with carers more than 20 miles from their natural families - worse than the national average of 17 per cent.

It means the youngsters may have to travel for hours to visit home, and many have to move school.

The Government figures, highlighted by Fostering Network, show 11pc of children in care in Suffolk had been moved to three or more placements in just one year in 2006 - increasing from 9pc in 2004. In Essex the figure was 17pc- compared to the national average of 12pc.

Council chiefs in Suffolk have conceded they need 35 more foster carers - but stress vulnerable children are still being well looked after.

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John Gregg, Suffolk County Council's service director for vulnerable children, said: “We make every effort to ensure all children are placed close to their natural families. At times this is not possible, either because of their particular circumstances or a shortage of foster carers. Nevertheless, the vast majority of placements in Suffolk are made close to children's local areas.

“In a large rural county such as Suffolk, this is a challenge and so we are launching our own campaign to recruit more foster carers, to coincide with fostering fortnight.”

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