A council plans to invest £12 million into its ‘inadequate’-rated children’s services to reduce the number of children in care and address financial unsustainability.
Norfolk councillors will next week debate whether to make the investment, split over four years, into children’s services to support a redesign to strengthen early help services.
A report submitted to the council said: “Looked-after children’s numbers have increased consistently over the [last five years] from approximately 1015 in March 2012 to 1107 in March 17. Whilst [looked-after children] numbers have risen nationally, the rate of the Norfolk increase has exceeded the national picture.”
The report said the children’s services’ current delivery model was “financially unsustainable” going forwards, and was already forecasting a £1 million overspend, despite a £9 million additional spend in the 2017/18 budget.
The council estimated that without additional investment the number of children in care would continue to rise, and place an extra £5 million a year demand on services by 2021/2022.
As well as increasing the size of early help services, the money would support the council to recruit more in-house foster carers and reduce the dependency on “expensive” agencies, invest in training and development for social workers, and reduce the number of unnecessary assessments being done by social workers.
The report said there were “too many” contacts through the front door that revealed “no significant concerns”. As a result, social workers were spending a “disproportionate” amount of time on assessments that didn’t progress any further..
“Without corrective action, this level of activity will continue to rise utilising resources that could be better deployed elsewhere,” the report said.
The council’s policy and resources committee will decide whether to grant the extra funding on Monday 25 September.
The leader of Norfolk council, Cliff Jordan, said the ambitious programme would “transform” work with children and families.
“This is the first time such a significant one-off investment has been proposed for a programme of this kind in Norfolk – investing today will deliver long-term savings at a time when our budgets are under considerable pressure. As an administration we believe it is the right approach for our country and shows our absolute commitment and determination to improve services for children.”
*Correction: The headline for this piece originally read that the service was ‘financially unstable’. This was incorrect, and should have read ‘financially unsustainable’, as was quoted in the piece and the report. The headline was amended on 20 September.