Oxfordshire County Council has joined forces with councils from across the South East in an effort to increase the number of foster carers across the region.

There are currently more than 11,000 children in care across the South East, with fewer than 3,000 local authority approved foster carers.

In an attempt to bridge this gap, Oxfordshire and 19 other councils have launched Local Authority Fostering South East, a virtual fostering hub.

Councillor John Howson, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, education and young people’s services, said: "Foster carers make an enormous difference to the lives of children, who, for various reasons, need to be cared for outside of their own family.

Councillor John HowsonCouncillor John Howson (Image: Newsquest)

"I am full of admiration and thank each and every one of them.

"Our service is not for profit, and we are committed to keeping children and young people near to their birth families, friends and schools.

“Our aim is for children to have more stability by placing them locally with our own foster carers.

"We cannot do that unless we can recruit more dedicated carers."

Local Authority Fostering South East provides prospective foster carers with a centralised platform for initial enquiries about fostering.

The partnership aims to support every step of a carer’s fostering journey, helping local authorities work collaboratively to provide the best assistance.

The new regional hub plans to run marketing campaigns to raise awareness about the role and encourage more people to become foster carers with their local council.

Benefits include comprehensive training, financial assistance, and ongoing support from a non-profit organisation.

Prospective foster carers can also benefit from a new fostering ambassador scheme, where they can speak to an existing carer to discover what the role is like.

Natasha Sampson, South East regional strategic lead, said: "This is a really exciting time for fostering.

"For the first time in the South East, we are leveraging the collective skills, knowledge, resources and support of 20 local authorities to ensure children and young people have a stable home, in a loving family, which they all deserve.

"The new hub will make this possible by increasing the number of local foster carers and making sure they are well supported through their recruitment journey and beyond.

"I would urge anyone interested in fostering to get in touch with us to find out more about becoming a foster carer with your local authority.”

Funded by the national Department for Education, Local Authority Fostering South East is the largest of nine regions involved in the pilot programme.

Further information about becoming a foster carer can be found on the regional website.