Plans to safely reduce the number of Staffordshire children in care have been approved.
Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet have approved plans to invest an extra £8.1m for additional frontline staff and more preventative work to keep children with their families rather than being taken into care.
The ambition is that by 2026 the success of the preventative work means there will be more than 400 fewer looked after children than the current record level of 1,248.
Helen Riley, Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities, said:
Families tell us that they do not want to be caught up in ‘the system’ and evidence shows the results are better for everyone if we can intervene early and find safe solutions within the family group or the community.”
In the last 10 years the number of children in Staffordshire who are receiving the most intensive support from social services has risen from 1138 to 1,984, with the cost of caring for the most vulnerable, including looked after children, increasing from £59.1m to £116.5m.
Despite the growing pressure on the local authority, earlier this year the county council’s children’s social care services were again rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.
The increased investment will fund an extra 34 family support workers across Staffordshire and two new court teams, as well as providing additional training for existing staff and a move towards a more ‘district-based’ approach.
The strategy also dovetails with the county council’s policy to support children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) by increasing the focus on educating pupils in their own communities and seeking local and district level solutions wherever possible.
Helen Riley added:
Our priority is protecting vulnerable children and supporting them to become happy, confident, independent adults.
Our front line staff do a remarkable job in often difficult circumstances and this additional investment will allow them to do more where it’s needed most.”