Children's services chiefs hope to save £13m with new care hubs

Sara Tough (left) and John Fisher. Picture: Norfolk County Council/Julian Claxton Photography.

Sara Tough (left) and John Fisher. Picture: Norfolk County Council/Julian Claxton Photography. - Credit: Norfolk County Council/Julian Claxton Photography

Children’s services bosses are launching a fresh way to save millions of pounds and support Norfolk’s most vulnerable young people.

The county has long had a high number of children being taken into care by the county council, with 1,100 currently looked after.

That costs the council around £55m a year, but despite the money spent, just half of children taken into care are in education, training or employment once they leave.

Previous investigations by this newspaper have also highlighted terrible conditions in some private provider accommodation for teenagers in care. 

However, thanks to funding of £5m from the Department for Education, the council is hoping to replicate the success of a project in North Yorkshire which reduced the number of children in care. It also saw fewer children going missing and being arrested. 

Called No Wrong Door, the project will see two children’s homes turned into “hubs” and an extra 20 staff recruited.

New flats have been created for children who are leaving care and require a more independent setting

Last year the council opened new flats for children who are leaving care and this project would build on that. Pictured is Matthew Canning, senior support worker - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The hubs will provide short term placements and support for  young people, aged from 12 to 25.

The council hopes it will save almost £13m over four years when it launches next summer.  

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A report, from children's services director Sara Tough and cabinet member John Fisher, which went before councillors this month, said the project would ensure children “are not passed from service to service but instead are supported by a dedicated team".

That team would include residential workers, a psychologist, a speech and language therapist and a police intelligence worker.

The council said that although the number of children in care was slowly reducing, it was still high in Norfolk compared to similar counties.

The department is also looking after around 100 unaccompanied child asylum seekers.

Councillor Fisher said: "Nationally the No Wrong Door model is proving to be highly successful in keeping families safely together and giving stability for children where it did not exist before.

"This new whole system approach enables key workers to stick with a young person through their journey.

"Whilst young people may come into the service quickly, they will only be moved out when the time is right."

The council report said accommodation shortages had made them reliant on private sector providers and out of county placements, which, they said: “Not only creates less good outcomes for children and young people, but also results in increasing and unsustainable placement costs.”

The authority continues to spend around £7m a year on unregulated private accommodation for children leaving care.

Photos show the inside of homes where Sixteen Plus was paid to place teenagers in the care of Norfol

An investigation by this newspaper in 2017 revealed the conditions inside of the homes for care leavers which the council had paid a private provider for. - Credit: Archant

The use of unregulated accommodation nationally was criticised by the Children’s Commissioner in September, who described some of them as “barely fit for human habitation”. 

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