Headlines: January 7th, 2003

Local councils are to get an extra 113 million pounds over the next three years to improve foster care. The Choice Protects Grant will be used to ensure all children have access to high quality foster care placements regardless of disability and race.The first 20 million pounds of the grant will be available in 2003-4, with a further 33 million payable in the next year and the final 60 million in 2005-6. Health Minister Jacqui Smith said the money would be allocated to help local authorities to expand and strengthen their overall fostering as well as improving the quality and choice of placements for children.

She said, “Foster carers do an important job, looking after some of our most vulnerable children who are unable to be at home for a wide variety of reasons. The Choice Protects review has identified a range of ways in which carers can be supported in their work. “

Individual councils will be able to decide if they wish to use the grant to develop services for particular groups of children, such as those with disabilities or those in need of short-break care, or to improve the support services they provide for foster carers.

The announcement of the extra money follows the Choice Protects review of fostering which was established last March. Latest figures show there are more than 59,000 children in local authority care in England and Wales and that two thirds of them are being looked after by foster carers.