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Major investment sees number of children in care in Norfolk fall

PUBLISHED: 06:48 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 06:48 01 April 2020

John Fisher, mayor of Thorpe St Andrew Pic: Norfolk County Council.

John Fisher, mayor of Thorpe St Andrew Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council

The number of children in care in Norfolk has fallen, with council leaders saying a mutli-million pound investment to keep vulnerable youngsters with their families is paying dividends.

Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Archant Library.Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Archant Library.

Norfolk County Council is spending up to £15m to provide earlier support to families and to recruit more foster carers - and says it has helped reduce the number of children in care from 1,227 in January 2019 to 1,128 in December last year.

However, opposition councillors say, with 18 months gone, it is too early into what the council calls its transformation programme to draw firm conclusions.

The number of children in residential care has also reduced from 130 in January 2018 to 113 in December 2019, a reduction of nearly 14pc.

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.

That, the council says, means only cases needing social work assessment or support end up being referred to children’s services.

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The council says that means social workers have more time to work with families who need support, while £5m has been spent on council accommodation for care leavers and the council says it is giving extra support to foster carers.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We know that children are generally happier and achieve more when they can safely live with their families – getting the best outcomes for children is at the heart of our transformation work.

“Where children do have to come into our care, we want them to live in foster care wherever possible, so that they can benefit from the love and support that children experience when living within a family.

“It is really encouraging to see our transformation work delivering such important results for children – particularly as demand continues to grow nationally.

“Our work to support families earlier and get specialist help to those who need it is really making a difference to children’s lives.”

But Labour’s Mike Smith-Clare said: “It seems somewhat premature for a cabinet member to be talking about the success of a transformation programme after only 18 months, with three and a half years still to go.”

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