Early help for children and families to grow as council department shifts focus

Penny Carpenter, chair of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee. Pic: Norfolk Count

Penny Carpenter, chair of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A new approach focusing on prevention before the need for serious intervention is being adopted by those responsible for caring for the county's most vulnerable children.

Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Sara Tough. Photo: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council has unveiled a host of new initiatives for its children's services team, geared at giving the quickest possible response to young people and families needing their support.

The department is placing its focus on 'front door' service, aiming to help to those who need it as early as possible.

A year on from County Hall agreeing a £12m investment programme in the department, children's services bosses have revealed a range of ways they are looking to take the services forward. Among these the council will be investing in higher-quality accommodation for care leavers, looking to offer greater support to foster carers and involving senior social workers in earlier stages of its services. Alongside these measures, the department is also reviewing its relationship with partner organisations - including the police - aiming to create stronger links to ensure the right support is offered at the earliest possible time.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children's services committee, said: 'We want children in Norfolk to get the help they need as early as possible - this is better for children, better for families and a better use of our funding.

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'Children and families should be able to get the right help as soon as they need it – we don't want them to have to wait until their family is in crisis.'

Council bosses have worked with David Thorpe, a professor who has helped other councils transform their children's social services, on the changes.

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Sara Tough, director of the children's services department, described the scheme as being like a jigsaw, with several different aspects working together for the same desired outcome.

James Wilson, the programme's lead officer, told committee members the transformation would take on 'a systematic approach', aiming to reduce the number of children and families requiring high end levels of support.

Ms Tough added: 'The key thing will be the relationship between everyone involved - it is an initiative to make things as simple and effective as they can be.'

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