FOSTER care is in “a state of emergency” according to the UK’s leading children’s charity.

The number of children needing foster care in the south east during the coronavirus crisis has risen by 89 per cent, figures from Barnardo’s show.

Meanwhile the number of people looking to become foster parents has plummeted by almost a third. Children who may have experienced abuse and neglect are waiting for places with foster families.

Barnardo’s Brighton and Hove Link Plus service urgently needs foster carers for disabled children and young people.

One Brighton foster carer, Helen, said: “Many parents are feeling overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities facing them during Covid 19. For parents of a disabled child these added pressures are exhausting.

“I have been truly touched by how grateful parents have been for just a few hours’ respite. I would urge anyone thinking about short breaks or fostering to contact Link Plus and make a difference to a local family.”

With job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health, the coronavirus crisis has increased pressure on vulnerable families and seen many break down.

Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place, the charity said, and it warned more families will be affected as the crisis continues.