NEW measures are being introduced to improve how vulnerable children are looked after in Staffordshire.
An Ofsted inspection of children’s social care services published in March confirmed the county council had retained its overall rating of ‘Good’ – one of only three in the West Midlands to achieve this rating.
But the authority is pushing ahead with initiatives to further improve how it helps youngsters.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “Ofsted’s finding of ‘Good’ is a tremendous achievement when one considers the increasing numbers of children needing support at a time when funding from the Government simply isn’t keeping pace with the cost of providing these specialised services.
“But we know we can still make improvements and we’re committed to focusing on prevention, early intervention and keeping more children out of care when it is safe to do so.”
The new initiatives include:
- greater help for 16 and 17-year-olds who are homeless;
- more specific work to help care leavers, particularly those not in employment, training, or education;
- greater coordination with partners;
- increased focus on achieving long-term arrangements for children as quickly as possible;
- better use of analysis arising from interviews with children who go missing from home, or care.
The proposals will be discussed by the county council’s Safe and Strong Communities scrutiny committee later this month, at the same time as a report on proactive measures the authority is taking to reduce the number of times children go missing – from all locations – and to analyse the reasons why.
In the last 10 years the number of children in Staffordshire who are receiving support from children’s services has risen by 1,143 to 1,912, with the cost of caring for the most vulnerable increasing from £58 million to £110.8 million.
Mark Sutton said: “Catch 22 has been commissioned to work across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to assess the reasons children go missing, analyse the information for patterns and trends and support children to reduce the number of times this might happen.
“We are also in the process of joining with three other local authorities in the region to increase the chances of looked after children, who cannot stay with their own families, finding permanent, loving homes elsewhere as quickly as possible via adoption, fostering or special guardianship.
“We are we are committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable children, together with our partners we continue to make clear to Government that there needs to be a national, sustainable solution to how we continue to fund children’s social care.”
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