CALLS have been made for improvements in finding foster parents in Scotland as it emerged one in five sibling groups taken into care are split up.

A report published by the Care Inspectorate, Scotland’s social care watchdog, revealed that three in four councils reported instances where the number of children requiring a foster care placement was greater than the placements available.

And the Care Inspectorate said more foster families are needed to support children in care.

The report suggested that experiences for sibling groups taken into care “need to be improved”, with 211 sibling groups (20 per cent) split up on finding a placement.

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Nearly 60 per cent of local authorities reported difficulties in placing sibling groups.

The report is expected to inform the independent care review which is to make recommendations to improve the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.

The Care Inspectorate warning came after a report by Action for Children Scotland (AfCS) last month called for a shake-up of state care as hundreds of “looked after” children said they do not want to be separated from brothers or sisters.

Fiona Steel, children’s services operational director for AfCS, said: “One of the main concerns highlighted in this report is the difficulty in recruiting foster families to look after sibling groups. This was an area we highlighted in our recent report on children in the care system. But we acknowledge the difficulty in recruiting carers who can look after siblings groups due to issues as varied as lack of appropriate accommodation through to the impact on their own birth children.”

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “We also know that more high quality fostering and adoption places are needed for vulnerable children, and that too many children are separated from their siblings when a place is found for them.

“It is important that children in care are supported to form permanent and loving relationships as quickly as possible, and an important part of this is almost always maintaining the strong bond between siblings.

“Sisters and brothers are often a great support and comfort at times of crisis, especially for young children.

“We hope this data is of use in supporting how adoption and fostering services are planned and delivered, and to the Independent Care Review whose ongoing work I strongly welcome.”

The report, which published for the first time figures compiled in December 2016, further revealed that there were 209 children in foster care at the end of the year who were waiting for a permanent placement.

At that point there were 4,011 approved foster carer households in Scotland, down 10 per cent from the previous year.

The Care Inspectorate report found that recruiting households that would foster sibling groups was a challenge for 24 of the 59 fostering services, 32 of which are local authority run. The other 27 are non-for-profit organisations.

The report said there was evidence from its inspections that local authorities “face some challenges” in the recruitment of foster carers.

“This can result in foster carers not having sufficient approved places for whole sibling groups due to demand for places. Independent fostering services tend to approve carers for fewer children and can sometimes build capacity into placements when the need for siblings being placed together arise,” the report said.

“Sibling groups can be very large and that can be a reason for separating siblings.”

The Action for Children Scotland report called for a review of the impact of existing programmes and whether money is being spent wisely Young people called for residential workers to have more freedom to show affection, and asked for more reliable relationships with social workers and other staff, and help to live independently after care.

The Care Inspectorate said their findings also show that the quality of fostering and adoption services across Scotland is high, with 95 per cent of fostering services and 97 per cent of adoption services rated as good or better by inspectors.

A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities spokesman said Scotland’s councils take their duty to children in their care" very seriously and treat their responsibility in this area with the utmost seriousness and priority". "It is good that the report recognises that fostering and adoption services operate at a high level. Scotland’s councils are at the forefront of running recruitment campaigns aimed at finding foster families to support children in care but again as the report states this is not an easy or a straightforward task," he said.