FOSTERING in Blackburn with Darwen is close to breaking point, council chiefs warned.

Members of the council’s corporate parenting specialist advisory group heard there was “no room at the inn” for children needing to be placed into foster care.

Janette Clarke, head of permanence in the children’s services department, said there had been a spike in children being taken into care, with 30 since the turn of the year.

She told members lack of stable employment, poor housing and deprivation all contributed to the issue:

“Our foster care system at the moment is really stretched in that there’s no room at the inn,” she said.

"There's a lot of deprivation out there and I think it is more prevalent in the north than the south. Our resources be become more limited as well.

Ms Clarke added almost 80 per cent of looked after children in the borough are white British and that Asian families did not tend to face the same problems because of cultural differences, intergenerational living and a greater sense of community.

Figures Ms Clarke presented to the group showed the council current has 408 looked after children - the highest in the last ten years.

In March last year, there were 377 children and young people in care across the borough, up from 363 in March 2017.

In 2016 numbers started to rise significantly and have remained high.

Of the 408 looked after children, 22 have been in care for nine years or longer, while 148 have been in care for up to one year.

She said: "This is a national trend and overall in the last decade, the number of children in care has increased by 24 per cent nationally.

"Austerity has not helped and neither have benefits and welfare reforms.

"The longer you are in care, the less chance you really have of returning home."

Bosses say the availability of foster placements both in-house and through independent agencies has become increasingly challenging particularly for older children and sibling groups.

Figures also show most looked after children are aged between 0 and two, with 89 falling into that group.

There are 88 15 to 17 year olds in care compared to 76 aged 12 to 14, 62 at nine to 11, 48 aged six to eight and 45 three to five year olds.