Tens of thousands of young people could avoid going into council care if services are reshaped under a new ‘optimised delivery model’ based on a family-focused way of delivering support, according to a new report.
Against a backdrop of councils under significant pressure in delivering children’s services, today’s report from the County Councils Network (CCN), Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE) and Newton set out a new way to improve outcomes and make services sustainable.
The Future of Children’s Social Care has recommended that £205m a year is spent by councils in England on ‘edge of care’ services to support children and young people either at risk of coming into care or those who could return to their families and communities, where it is safe to do so.
It has proposed local and national investment to transform the care market, including a national focus on recruiting and supporting foster carers, similar to the government’s National Adoption Strategy.
The report said that without changes to the system, projected expenditure on children in care is set to be £2.1bn higher in 2025 compared to 2020, and that its analysis shows delivering the model could mitigate up to 96% of the forecast growth in spend.
But it added that addressing the projected spend does not eradicate the underlying funding gap facing councils. CCN is arguing the Government should use its March Spring Forecast to inject substantive resources into the system.
The report has emerged as the sector awaits the findings of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care led by Josh MacAlister. It said sustainable local and national funding is vital to allow investment in services, and that significant support is needed from central government to enable the new model, including the certainty of a long-term funding settlement for children’s services.
It has stated that for up to 34% of children in care, opportunities to support a return to family or community are not being properly explored.
According to the analysis, if the blueprint is adopted across England by 2025 it could result in up to 31,000 young people living safely with their families and communities rather than in the care of local authorities, based on projected figures of children in care.
This would mean the number of children in care could decrease to 64,000 by 2025, lower than last year’s all-time high of 80,020 and significantly less than the highest projection of 95,000 if nothing is done, the report has concluded.
Cllr Keith Glazier, children’s services spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said councils ‘need to do more to maximise the opportunity for young people to be supported to live with their families or in their communities.’
‘With a deeper understanding of the long-term impact of children being separated from their families, it is clear that the status quo no longer an option.
‘This report shows the art of the possible from both ends of the care system. It places councils at the centre of delivering a renewed system where the focus is on supporting children and families, enabling them to stay together, as well as maximising the possibility of children returning to their families where it is safe to do so.
‘Of course, many young people will sadly still require local authority care, but under this new model thousands would not reach that point.
‘The report throws down the gauntlet for local authorities to work more effectively, but it also shows how the rest of the public sector can be more joined up in supporting families on the verge of crisis, and in delivering meaningful support to reduce the need for lengthy periods in care: improving outcomes for children. However, this cannot be done on a shoestring and we urge for a substantial injection of funding from government this year so we can begin to transform services.’
The report presents a vision for what the future of children’s social care could be and defines an optimised model for delivering it, write Luke Tregidgo and James Maker in The MJ.