More vulnerable children remaining with families after care shake-up
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More vulnerable children in Norfolk are remaining with their families with a fall in the number of children in care.
New figures show the number of children in care reduced by 10pc between January 2019 and March 2020.
Council leaders said the reduction showed that a multi-million pound investment to keep vulnerable youngsters with their families is paying dividends.
Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services is two years into its £15m five year transformation programme, which aims at providing earlier support to families and assisting them to stay together by increasing direct work with them and their wider family network and providing more services to give help when it is needed.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have seen a steady and measured reduction in the number of looked after children in Norfolk since the start of 2019.
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“This is a result of stable leadership, purposeful action, and additional investment in strengthening practice and new edge of care services as part of our transformation programme, which means we are more often successfully keeping families together safely and sustainably.
“We know that children are generally happier and achieve more when they can safely live with their families, so this work is really making a difference to their lives.”
Following critical inspections by Ofsted, in 2018, the council changed how it deals with contacts from professionals with concerns about children, bringing in a new specialist service staffed by social workers.
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The latest figures show that while there were 1,227 under the age of 18 being looked after in Norfolk in January 2019 that had fallen to 1,106 children at the end of March this year.
However the rate of reduction has slowed with just 22 fewer children in care between December 2019 and March 31.
Labour’s county lead for children and young people Mike Smith-Clare said: “It goes without saying that the strategy for ensuring that alternatives to placing vulnerable children into care is the right one.
“A supportive home environment is essential, not just in providing a safe haven, but a springboard into adulthood.
“Any dip in meeting this ambition is a failing. One that needs resolving as a matter of urgency - not for the sake of the transformation programme, but for the future of our county’s vulnerable youngsters.”