Leeds City Council has reduced the number of children on child protection plans by 40 per cent after a major reorganisation of its service.
Gail Faulkner, head of the children’s social work service at the council who will speak at Community Care Children and Families Live this Thursday, said greater use of family group conferencing had identified more kinship carers.
She said: “I think within the last year, we can say 90 children did not come into care because they were kept in the family because of family group conferencing.
“The research tells us the emotional outcomes were better in kinship care, but school attendance might be a bit better in foster care. Anecdotally, by and large, that was what we found too.”
The number of looked-after children fell by 179 to 1,295 and the number of child protection plans decreased by 500 to 750 over the last two to three years following the changes.
The council has also dropped the idea of thresholds for intervention, but Faulkner says children still go into care if they need it. “We have said if children need to be in care they will be in care,” she said. “We have never said ‘raise the threshold for child protection’.”
In the past the council put too many children into care, she added.
These changes are part of a wider overhaul of children’s social care at the council following an Ofsted rating of inadequate in 2009.
The restructure included: organising its teams by geography; a new duty and advice team including police officers, health professionals and social workers; close work with the police on domestic violence cases; and new policies influenced by academic research.
The council reduced the number of children in out-of-area placements, where appropriate, from 108 to 49 and used the money saved to introduce the changes.
You can learn more about how Leeds cut its child protection plans by attending their session at this week’s Community Care Children and Families Live event in London