Injection of £12m as Norfolk aims to reduce children in care by up to 400 over four years
- Credit: EDP picture library
The number of children taken into care in Norfolk needs to be cut by up to 400 over the next four years, council bosses have said, as they unveiled a £12m programme to reduce the numbers.
With 1,107 children looked after by Norfolk County Council, bosses want to use the one-off investment to bring the number down by getting help to families sooner.
The council says there are 'unnecessary' assessments of youngsters whose families could have been helped earlier.
The new strategy will see the council's use of residential care reduced, but that will mean more foster carers have to be recruited to look after youngsters.
The council says, if numbers can be brought down, it will bring savings in the longer term.
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But unions have raised concerns over its achievability.
The council's policy and resources committee will be asked to agree the £12m investment at a meeting later this month.
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With the council needing to save £100m over four years, children's services had been earmarked to save £23.5m. The funding for the £12m will have to be identified during the budget-setting process.
Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'This is the first time such significant one-off investment has been proposed for a programme of this kind in Norfolk – investing today will deliver long-term savings at a time when our budgets are under considerable pressure.
'As an administration we believe it is the right approach for our county and shows our absolute commitment and determination to improve services for children.'
Jonathan Dunning, secretary for the Norfolk branch of Unison, said new money in an under-resourced department would be welcomed and previous cuts to preventative services should not have been made.
But he said: 'Workloads of existing staff and the high number of social work vacancies will not be tackled by this proposal so the council's ability to deliver it's core services will still be severely tested.
'The council has been trying to reduce the number of children in care since making budget cuts in the dying days of the John Major government.'
'We will need to see more detail before we can evaluate whether this is a strategy that will finally address this decades old problem.'