The chief of adoption charity Barnado’s is encouraging more gay couples to give a home to children in care.

New chief executive Anne Marie Carrie was speaking after a survey by the charity found that a third of the public think that gay couples are inferior parents.

The poll of 2,049 people found that 32 per cent think gay couples are not as good as parenting as straight couples and Barnado’s says this prejudice is preventing children from finding new homes.

There are currently more than 64,000 children in England’s care system and Barnardo’s says that adoption rates are at a new low.

The charity hopes to encourage more couples and individuals to come forward to help children, regardless of their sexuality.

Only 3.75 per cent of the 3,200 children adopted in England last year were adopted by gay couples, the charity says.

Ms Carrie said: “The poll not only highlights a disturbing and prevalent belief system, but also a deepening concern that children in the care system are continuing to lose out on potential parents.

“Society’s attitude plays a pivotal role in discouraging people from considering adoption. The idea that gay parents are second best must be challenged.

“To suggest that a same sex couple is not as able to raise a child as a heterosexual couple is at once absurd and unsubstantiated. To continue to discourage potential adopters simply because of their sexual orientation is severely diminishing the chances of securing loving, stable homes for the children who are waiting.

“This debate needs to be urgently raised and myths surrounding how sexuality, race, marital status and gender can affect your parenting dispelled.”