Worcestershire County Council is completing its medium term plan to put Children's Social Care in the best position to achieve the best outcomes for Worcestershire's Looked After Children.
A detailed analysis has been undertaken following the recent Safeguarding Peer Review and as a result the service is forecasting a financial pressure of £5.8 million in 2015/16. The pressure has arisen due to an increasing number of children having to be received in to public care. Nationally, demand pressures within services for Looked After Children remain high with a significant number of local authorities experiencing an increase in the number of referrals in this area.
The council needs to ensure that tax payers' money is spent in the best way so services are being developed to support families to stay together and reduce the need for children to be looked after. This is being achieved by focusing on early intervention and preventative action to ensure family problems are resolved before there is a need for specialist services such as social care.
The council is looking to further develop its internal services and to also get the best value from external providers to provide the right placement at the right time for each of its looked after children.
The council is continuing to develop its in-house supported living placements which will provide an opportunity to step down from residential care to enable young people to prepare for adulthood. The council is purchasing a number of properties to deliver these supported living placements as well as developing a new service for short breaks for children and young people that will support parents to get the break they need to avoid children becoming looked after.
Significant activity has also taken place to recruit new foster carers and develop the council's in house fostering service. Having more children placed with Worcestershire foster carers is not only more cost effective but, more importantly, provides a better opportunity for children to remain within their own communities and benefit from staying at the same school and with the same access to their local health services.
The council is also looking to develop a range of options for those families on the edge of care which will look to provide a rapid response in times of crisis. This will consist of immediate Family Support as well as some emergency short term accommodation which can be provided for the very short term whilst help is given to enable families to remain together.
Cllr John Campion, Worcestershire County Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families said: "Ultimately, the council's key priority is to ensure that vulnerable children are safe and secure. However, this must be done in the most efficient way and at the best price to the tax payer.
"The council wants to give all vulnerable children the opportunity to remain with family and friends wherever it is safe to do so. If children have to come into care we will seek to ensure they are stable and are helped to leave the care system in a positive way.
"We are already well on our way to making the improvements needed to address our medium-term financial pressures and I am confident we will be able to make the necessary changes to support vulnerable children in a more cost effective way."