Ambitious proposal to reduce numbers of children in care across Norfolk given go ahead
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
Millions of pounds from central government will be used by Norfolk County Council to reduce numbers of children in care by helping families stay together.
Councillors on the authority's policy and resources committee unanimously approved a proposal focusing on early intervention and 'holistic methods' in a bid to keep families together.
Committee members learned that extra money and early intervention reduced long-term costs for the council.
Committee papers read: 'It is better and more cost effective to intervene with families earlier.'
The increase in looked after children across Norfolk has increased from 1,015 in March 2012 to 1,107 in March 2017 - a rise which exceeds the national picture.
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Councillor Steve Morphew said: 'I'm delighted we are getting a grip of this. We need to think about resources, but the most important priority is the children.'
The new strategy will cost between £12m and £15m and spent from 2018 and 2022.
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It includes a reduction in the council's use of residential care by investing in specialist alternatives; more foster carers; better staff training; and a reduction in the numbers of children coming into contact with statutory social care and unnecessary assessments.
It is hoped the numbers of looked after children will reduce by 400 over the four years.
The 'tried and tested' proposal is adapted from a 'successful' business model developed by East Sussex County Council.
Matt Dunkley, outgoing interim director of Norfolk County Council's children's services, told policy and resources committee members: 'We are taking a business approach...Our budget is under severe strain.'
But he added the 'big and ambitious' proposal was not 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' and provided a safety net for children because of early intervention.
The outgoing director added Sara Tough, who will imminently replace him as head of the children's services, was 'excited' by the new plan.
Councillor Penny Carpenter, said the authority could not turn a blind eye to looked after children.
She said: 'I care what happens to the children of this county.'
Councillor Bill Borrett said the project was an excellent use of money to be spent 'at the sharp end of vulnerable people'.