The number of children being looked after by the Western Trust has soared by almost 40% in the past four years — and is now at an all-time high.
The demand for sensory and behaviour assessments for disabled children has seen a similar increase over the past 12 months.
However, the Trust has recorded a drop in the number of children on its ‘at risk’ list since March this year.
The figures are contained in the latest Parenting Report presented to the Trust at its December board meeting, which identified a total of 4,896 ‘children in need’.
The number of children being ‘looked after’ by the Trust now stands at 552 children/young people, which is up 5% when compared to the same period last year, and continuing an ascending trend since 2011.
Kieran Downey is Western Trust director of women and children’s services and executive director of social work. He said the Trust is facing unprecedented demands on its services for children.
Mr Downey said: “Despite the number of children which the Western Trust is now responsible for being at an all-time high, we continue, as a corporate parent to provide care standards based on what any good parent does when caring for their children.
“As well as ensuring that children are kept safe and well, high standards of service and professional practice, provided by our dedicated workforce, give children who are ‘looked after’ enhanced life chances so that when they leave care, they have much better prospects and ultimately achieve their potential.”
For the past number of years the increase in the need for foster families has seen the Trust take a proactive approach in recruiting, which included direct appeals and information roadshows.
Mr Downey continued: “There is a constant need for more foster carers and kinship carers within the Trust so that we can find the right foster family with the right skills and experience for each individual child.
“However, there is no typical foster carer — we have carers who are not already parents and who are single or living together, married couples and those who have their own young family or family who have flown the nest.
“All we ask is that you meet the essential criteria of being over 21, having a spare bedroom, live within the Western Trust area and are happy to undergo all the statutory checks.”
For more information about fostering, please contact Dympna Brogan, Western Trust recruitment team manager, by telephone on (028) 7131 4244 or (028) 8283 5264 or email: email@example.com