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'Third of foster siblings split up'

Thousands of brothers and sisters are being split up when they are placed in foster care, it has been suggested.

Around a third of youngsters who were fostered in the last year were separated from their siblings, according to research by Action for Children.

The charity warned that separating brothers and sisters who are being taken into care can leave children feeling lost or abandoned at what is already a confusing and upsetting time.

Figures obtained by Action for Children through a Freedom of Information request showed that across 159 UK councils which provided results, 11,082 children with siblings were placed in care between April last year and March.

Of these around 3,598 youngsters (32%) were split up from their brothers and sisters.

A separate poll of 2,000 UK youngsters found that of the more than 300 children questioned who were in foster care, two thirds said that they had been separated from their siblings.

Half of these youngsters said that being split up had made them feel upset and angry, while nearly a third felt lonely and a fifth admitted they felt scared.

Just 6.5% said they did not mind being separated from their brothers and sisters.

The charity's chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: "For many children, being taken into care can be a confusing and upsetting time; add the distress of being split up from your brother or sister into the mix and the impact will last a lifetime.

"Nobody wants to separate brothers and sisters, but there simply aren't enough foster carers who can look after siblings.

"By arming ourselves with a pool of dedicated people who can provide a loving and caring home to groups of children we will avoid breaking more young hearts in the future."

He added: "We know that in some cases children can be so badly hurt by what has happened to them before going into care, including severe neglect and abuse, that they need one-to-one support.

"In the vast majority of cases, however, siblings benefit hugely by staying together and that's why we need more foster carers to help them."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We absolutely agree that siblings should be placed together in a stable and loving home whenever possible.

"That is why we are working closely with councils to help them recruit more foster carers who can meet the needs of children harder to place, such as brothers and sisters.

"We have also quickened up the approval process and provided money to trial innovative approaches to foster carer recruitment."

Latest figures show an annual nine per cent increase in foster carers, she added.

:: The poll questioned 2,000 UK six to 16-year-olds, including 324 who said they were in foster care.

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