Payment by results to be used to keep children out of care in Norfolk

Norfolk County Council headquarters. County Hall Martineau Lane, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council headquarters. County Hall Martineau Lane, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

A £1.25m boost means council bosses will use a privately funded company to keep young children out of care - on a payment by results basis.

Norfolk County Council had been keen to follow a trail blazed in Essex, which was the first council in the UK to commission what is known as a social impact bond.

And the government has announced it can have £1.25m towards the scheme after a successful bid to the Big Lottery's Life Chances Fund.

It will now see a subsidiary company formed, which private investors put money into. They would then be paid if the intervention it pays for and contracts succeeds in keeping children out of care.

The council says that could save £7m over five years, while estimating the payment by results would cost £4.2m. Officers said it would bring in investment on an under-pressure service, without risking the council's own budget.

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The project will target the families of up to 400 children aged eight to 15, who are at risk of care due to neglect or family breakdown, or who are in care with a plan to return home.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the council's children's services committee, said: 'We want Norfolk's children to be safe and live in resilient families, building on the strengths in families and giving families the help they need to stay together.

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'This social impact bond funding will mean we can develop new projects that complement the work that we are already doing, bringing in external investment to fund proven targeted therapy and support for those families most in need.'

When the bid was approved by the council's policy and resources committee in October last year, there was some criticism of the move to payment by results.

Labour's Emma Corlett said that there were 'ethical issues' about incentivising the market when it came to social welfare.

Officers said an evaluation of the £3.1m Essex social impact bond, which involved the charity Action for Children and focused on children on the edge of care, showed innovative practices had been brought in.

Deputy leader Alison Thomas acknowledged there was scepticism about such a move, but said due diligence had been done and it was worth pursuing.

Ofsted says the council's children's services department requires improvement to be good.

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