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Issue:- 13 May / 12 May 2009


THE North West is heading for a crisis in foster care due to an impending rise in the shortage of foster carers, a leading charity warns, with the launch of a report showing almost 2/3rds of the workforce is approaching potential retirement age.  The Age of Foster Care, published by the Fostering Network on 11 May to coincide with the launch of Foster Care Fortnight, found that 61% of foster carers in the north west are in their 50s, 60s or 70s.  The average age is 53.  While there is rightly no upper age limit on fostering, these figures suggest that a huge proportion of the workforce might choose to retire over the next 10 to 15 years.  Only 5% are in their 30s, with virtually nobody fostering while in their 20s.  There is already a shortage of 1,700 foster families in the north west.  Unless recruitment of new foster carers is stepped up sharply these figures suggest there is likely to be a far higher deficit of foster carers in the near future, leading to a foster care system struggling to cope and even more disruption and instability for children.  As a result, the Fostering Network is using Foster Care Fortnight, its annual awareness campaign, to encourage people of all ages to come forward and consider a career in fostering.  The charity is also calling on fostering services to audit their current fostering workforce to assess the potential impact of forthcoming retirements, and to review recruitment activities to ensure they are appealing to people of all ages.  Furthermore it is urging the Government to introduce regulation and funding so that fostering services are required to give all foster carers adequate financial support.  This will make fostering a viable career option right across the UK.  Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said:- ďItís extremely worrying that such a very high proportion of the foster care workforce is potentially so close to retiring.  For the sake of the tens of thousands of children across the north west who need the support and care of a foster family each year, itís crucial more people come forward.  In order to avert the impending crisis, itís important that we attract people of all ages.  Older people can bring experience and skills from previous jobs, but itís essential we also appeal to the untapped pool of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are particularly well placed to offer long-term care to younger children.  This report also shows that it is vital measures are put in place now by national and local governments to ensure that there is not an even more severe shortage of foster carers in 10 to 15 years time.Ē


NICK Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Leader, has launched his party's campaign to send more MEPs to the European Parliament for the North West Region that includes Southport.  Uniting behind the motto, 'Stronger Together', the Liberal Democrats are making clear their belief that Britain needs to be at the heart of decision-making in the European Union.  Clegg said that Europe's single market of 500 million people helped maintain millions of jobs across Britain.  He praised leadership shown by the EU in the fight against climate change and to protect the environment.  The Lib Dem boss said that measures such as the European Arrest Warrant helped fight cross-border crime and had ensured that criminals had been swiftly returned to Britain for trial.  The campaign launch took place in Burnley, where the Liberal Democrats have seen a big increase in their number of councillors in recent years and now control the council.  Chris Davies, the region's Liberal Democrat MEP who is seeking re-election, said that the economic recession highlighted the need for greater priority to be given to the promotion of manufacturing industry. 

Chris Davies said:- "North West England was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution that made Britain the world's first manufacturing superpower.  Now we must seize the chance to be the birthplace of the Green Technology Revolution.  Successive Governments have devoted too little attention to ensuring that we continue to make things.  We must not miss the chance to create new sustainable jobs in manufacturing."  The MEP claimed that the North West was losing out on nearly £200 million of business support available from the European Union to help provide an economic stimulus.  Unspent money from these funds is returned to the Treasury in London.  "Brussels has relaxed the rules to allow longer time to make use of unspent regeneration funds, but the Government has refused to apply for it."

The election of eight MEPs to represent the North West will take place on 4 June 2009.  The Liberal Democrats are aiming to win at least 2 of the seats.

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