Worcestershire County Councillors will discuss a new approach to prevent children from entering the care system at a Cabinet meeting next week (Thursday 18 October).
Nationally there has been a significant increase in the numbers of children in care. Between 2010 and 2016 the numbers of looked after children in England rose by 10 per cent.
Councillor Andy Roberts, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families, said: "Supporting our children and families to stay together when it is in the best interests of the child has to be the right thing to do. Children and young people who enter care often perform less well at school and are much more likely to achieve poor outcomes later in life. By investing more into preventing our children from coming into the care system, we can keep families together and improve the lives of our children and young people."
In Worcestershire, there are approximately 820 looked after children and young people. A proportion of the increase has been a result of the service taking more proactive action to protect children from harm as part of its improvement journey from an inadequate Ofsted judgement at the beginning of last year.
Tina Russell, Assistant Director of Worcestershire Children's Services, said: "We have a duty and responsibility to promote the welfare of children and, where it is possible and safe to do so, to promote the upbringing of children by their parents. Our Edge of Care offer will enable us to respond to families in need and in crisis and support them to develop skills and solutions to the challenges they face."
Evidence from a similar approach in Essex, which is Worcestershire's improvement partner for children's social care, has shown that effective strategies to keep families together helps to keep children in school, reduces youth homelessness and has resulted in a 7% decrease in the number of children entering care.
Worcestershire has four homes that provide services to children with disabilities and additional needs. These homes are not affected by these proposals and will continue to provide residential care and short breaks to those children and families.
The new approach would lead to six current homes reducing to two, releasing finance to fund the edge of care service.
Subject to the proposals being approved by Cabinet members there will be a consultation process with children, young people and families and stakeholders in relation to the implementation of the new approach.