Foster care opportunity knocks for Norfolk job hunters

Sometimes there is an unspoken truth behind a story, writes Steve Downes.

In this case, Norfolk County Council's officers and members are certainly not in a position to voice it.

But I can. And that truth is, that there are thousands of well-qualified professionals who are in the process of being made redundant, who might welcome the income to be had from becoming foster carers.

The reason that the powers-that-be at County Hall cannot say this is because they dare not be accused of making money the driving force behind signing up.

It is, after all, a calling. And it can be emotionally, physically and mentally draining. If people went into it simply to earn cash, placements would start to fail and children would be the victims.

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But there are likely to be plenty of people with the skills, the compassion and the time who have not yet considered the opportunity that is knocking.

Another arguably unspeakable truth is that the county council has effectively admitted that it is losing the battle to reduce the number of children in care.

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They will, of course, continue to try to do so. But after years of fierce focus on early intervention, the numbers are still going up.

So the only thing left to do is to shift attention to trying to reduce the, at times extraordinary, costs of looking after the youngsters.

The average annual cost to Norfolk of caring for a child is �52,000. That is high enough in itself, but it is skewed by the average costs of �171,600 per year for each of the 200 youngsters who are looked after in 'out of county' placements – either physically outside the county or inside Norfolk but in the care of private organisations.

That pressure is branding a red line on the looked-after children budget, which regularly runs a few million pounds beyond its limits.

Finding an army of foster carers would go a long way towards reducing costs, while also making for a more settled life for some of Norfolk's most vulnerable children.

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