"Merton is stepping up its recruitment campaign for more foster carers."

That was the message put out by the council in February last year following an announcement of a national foster carer shortage.

But a Freedom of Information request by the Wimbledon Times has found that not much changed in the 11 months since; in fact things might have gotten worse.

By the end of 2017, a month before the council's statement, there were 66 registered carers compared to 69 children requiring care, or 0.95 carers per child.

This ratio of carers to kids was an increase on 2015 and 2016 (0.79 and 0.90 respectively), but it then took a dive in 2018, with 70 carers registered to look after 84 children (0.83 ratio).

Despite this, the council say they are working hard to bring in more carers.

“Recruiting foster carers is a top priority for the council, as every child deserves to be raised in a loving home," a council spokeswoman said.

"Our foster carers tell us fostering is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life, as they see vulnerable children develop into young, capable adults viewing life positively and confidently."

But again, despite its statement that recruitment is a "top priority," the FOI revealed that no extra money on things like advertising was spent in 2018 compared to the four years prior.

"Recruiting and retaining foster carers is an ongoing challenge across the country for local authorities," the spokeswoman added.

"In Merton, we maximise every opportunity to promote the awareness of fostering and the important work of foster carers.

"Since February, we have focused our recruitment campaign to target people willing to care-for adolescents, sibling groups and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, which has resulted in an increase in the number of prospective foster parents.”

Merton Council offers new foster carers a full support package which include:

  • Full on-going training programme
  • Up to over £500 per child, per week
  • Additional allowances for special occasions such as £200 for annual holidays, £100 for Christmas and £100 for Birthdays per child.
  • Support of a dedicated supervising social worker
  • 24 hour free helpline
  • A ‘buddy scheme’ shadowing a foster carer prior to fostering a child yourself.

For more information about fostering a child call 0800 073 0874 or 020 8545 4070 or email fostering@merton.gov.uk.