Graphic: The number of Norfolk youngsters in care climbs, despite attempts to reduce figure

James Joyce, chairman of the county council's children's services committee. James Joyce, chairman of the county council's children's services committee.

Monday, June 16, 2014
5:52 PM

The number of looked after children in Norfolk has climbed to more than 1,150 – at a time when council bosses are under huge pressure to reduce how many youngsters are in care.

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Numbers of looked-after children since March 2008 graphicNumbers of looked-after children since March 2008 graphic

Millions of pounds has been earmarked to try to turn around Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department, following stinging criticism from Ofsted inspectors.

And, with the council having to plug a £189m funding gap, councillors have made clear they want to cut the number of young people who end up being looked after by the authority.

But, at a meeting this afternoon, councillors will hear that the number of looked after children has increased and now stands at 1,155 – up from 1,149 in November last year.

And that is well up on the 830 looked after children in the council’s care in 2008, although council bosses say the number is now slowing down.

The county council has set itself the ambitious target of reducing the number of looked after children to 770 in just three years’ time.

However, the report which will come before members of the children’s services committee acknowledges that, while the pace of increase in numbers has slowed, the overall numbers continue to increase.

Councillors will also hear how too many care and pathway plans for looked after children have not been reviewed – with an especially high figure of 160 in the west of the county.

The committee will hear “urgent attention” is being given to that, while the strategy to reduce the number of looked after children has been “refined” with a number of “new approaches” trialled.

James Joyce, chairman of the children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are committed to reducing the number of looked after children, but only in a safe, planned and measured way.

“In establishing our looked after children reduction strategy we reviewed the performance of a number of other councils which had successfully reduced their numbers.

“None of those authorities experienced a sudden dramatic reduction in numbers, but saw an initial period of numbers stabilising prior to reduction. This reflects our own experience, where we have achieved a sustained period of stabilised numbers over the last six months, the number increasing by five.

“This is in stark contrast to the rate of increase Norfolk was experiencing prior to that point, where we were seeing the numbers increase by five every month.” Mr Joyce said further action included increasing the number and options for young people leaving care, so they can live independently.

He added: “We know that we now need to build momentum so that numbers reduce over the next few months, which is why the senior leadership team now have oversight of every case.

“Our focus will continue to be on what is best for each and every child and we will only reduce numbers in a safe way.”

Do you have a story about a local council? Call public affairs correspondent Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375, or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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