More households in Hampshire started fostering this year, new figures show.

However, the overall number of English families agreeing to foster a child saw a major decline, prompting warnings vulnerable children are at increasing risk of being placed in homes which do not meet their needs.

The number of English households which had stopped fostering children as of March was 5,125, while those approved was the lowest in the last five years – 4,080, making it a loss of 1,045 fostering households.

These include foster places in both local authority and independent fostering agencies.

The localised figures are rounded to the nearest five and only show local authority foster carers, which account for 46% of them.

Ofsted figures show some 60 households in Hampshire had their fostering applications approved in the year to March – more than the year before, when there were around 40.

However, 45 carers also chose to stop fostering in Hampshire during the same period.

Sarah Thomas, chief executive of the Fostering Network said: “Once again the Ofsted data shows the immense pressure the fostering system is under – and there simply aren’t enough foster carers to meet the rising number of children coming into care.

“For the second year in a row we are seeing a net decrease in the number of foster carers available, as a significantly higher number have chosen to leave the role this year compared to new joiners.

The Ofsted data indicates that these annual losses will continue unless urgent action of a much greater scale is taken.”

The most households deregistered from fostering were in the South East – 425.

The number of households making applications has also been declining in the last two years, with 8,010 submitted in 2022-23 compared to 11,235 in 2020-21.

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s national director of regulation and social care, said: “Foster carers make such a difference to children’s lives by providing stable and loving homes.

“It’s very concerning that the number of applications from prospective fostering households are at the lowest they have been in years, although there is a welcome increase in children living with friends and family.

“Getting foster care matches right is central to ensuring children’s individual needs are met. However, the shortage of foster carers makes good matching far more difficult and, in some cases, can leave children without the care they need.”