Hampshire County Council is one of the 155 local authorities that have been able to up the number of foster carers despite a national shortage.

According to experts, 6,000 new foster families were needed in England to meet rising demand.

Since 2019, the number of children in care in the country has increased by seven per cent, meaning that 98,000 children are currently in care. Of those, 70,000 live with almost 55,000 foster families.

However, in the last year, more than 1,000 families decided to step down from fostering due to the rise in the cost of living and inflation squeezing families’ budgets, making them take the decision.

Despite the national crisis, new data from Fostering England revealed that out of 155 local authorities, Hampshire County Council was second in the list of the number of carers gained. It added 15 foster carers to its ranks in the last year, meaning there were 635 foster carers in the county.

Hampshire’s director of children’s services Stuart Ashley said that considering the national context, the result was “impressive” and that he felt “proud” of what the foster team achieved.

But he added: “It should not be underestimated the impact of the cost of living crisis on foster carers.”

In the top 10 authorities for total approved foster carer households, Hampshire was the only one to grow the number, bringing it to 365.

However, once recruited, children services faced another problem: retaining those families.

Hampshire pays foster families above the national recommendation.

But Mr Ashley said “it is not always about the money” why people come to foster in Hampshire; it is about “the brand, the trust in Hampshire County Council, the support they get from the staff, and the quality of supervision”.

The county also sends ‘surprise and delight’ thank you gifts to carers every month.