The County Councils Network (CCN), Association of County Chief Executives, and consultancy firm Newton have produced a report which it says offers a blueprint to deliver children’s social care in a family-focused way.
The model hopes to do this by reducing “the number of children being placed in care and increase the number of children safely returning to their families and communities from care.”
The report, The Future of Children’s Social Care, said tens of thousands of children could live safely with their natural families if councils led the way in reshaping children’s social care in the coming years. This, the authors said, should be done by investing more money in what they called ‘edge of care’ services. These are services which are offered as alternatives to children entering the care system where a local authority has considered care proceedings for a child.
The report also recommends a different approach to measuring risk (risk of harm) which would consider the “later-life impacts of children being separated from their families against the short-term risks they face.”
The producers of the report said they held conversations with children and young people who said they wanted better collecting, recording, and measuring of what mattered to them, such as contact with their siblings.
Data from the report suggested that opportunities to access support for a return to family or community were not being properly explored for an estimated 34% of children in care. However that figure is likely to be much higher as the producers of the report did not speak to every practitioner in Britain.
The statistics compiled in the report also read a little like an auditing exercise – “if we slough off this number of children from the system, ask for this much money a year, and place this many children into foster care rather that residential care, we can avoid overspending” – which while pragmatic is also something to note, as local authorities around the country scramble to ensure they don’t lose their market share in the sector.
The report also focuses on fostering, and calls on the sector to ramp up drives to find foster carers, “so there are more opportunities to place children in family-settings instead of costly residential care, when it is safe to do so.”
The report estimated that councils would need £205 million a year to be able to roll out ‘edge of care’ services for children in need.