Nottinghamshire County Council’s plans to recruit 25 additional foster carers every year for the next four year to reduce its reliance on more expensive external fostering providers is set to save it more than £6.5 million.
The county council currently has 892 children in care - a figure which has nearly doubled over the last five years.
Coun Kate Foale, lead for children’s social care said: “We have already started building on existing work to reduce our reliance on more expensive privately-run or out-of-county residential placements and our use of independent fostering providers, increasing the number of Council managed fostering placements.
“To do this, we will need to further increase the number of our own directly recruited and managed foster carers as well as improving our retention of them. We’re also be reviewing the cases of children currently in private or out-of-county residential placements to minimise the number of children entering residential care whose needs can be met through a family placement.”
This is one of the council’s recently announced proposals to make savings of £154 million from its budget over the next three years.
The council is currently urging people to join it in campaigning for a Fair Deal for Nottinghamshire by sending a message to the Government that its cuts - which are even more severe in less affluent areas like Nottinghamshire - are unfair, unsustainable and unacceptable.
“Since April this year however, we’ve seen a 9% increase in the number of Council foster placements, coupled with a reduction of 24 external residential placements since December 2012 which is really encouraging news,” continued Councillor Peck.
“It costs around £800 per week to care for a child using an external fostering provider which is nearly double that of using the foster carers we’ve recruited ourselves.”
The council currently provides placements for 439 looked after children which equates to 48% of all the children in care with the remainder in residential care or foster placements with independent providers.
Where possible children and young people who need new placements will not be placed in residential or external fostering agency care unless their needs can’t otherwise be met. And those already in one of these external placements will be moved into Council managed foster care where it’s appropriate and safe and a new placement fully meets the child’s needs.
Coun Peck added: “We currently have nearly 290 fostering households across the county and a further 45 for disabled children of a short break service, but to make this shift, as well as responding to the growing demand for foster carers due to the increasing number of children in care, we need to recruit an extra 25 foster carers every year.
“We also have the ongoing challenge of replacing those foster carers who retire or have a change of circumstances.”
Since April, the council has seen an 8 per cent increase in the number of fostering enquiries, a 4.5 per cent increase in the number of visits being requested from people interested in becoming a foster carer and 12 new foster households have been approved. A further 16 expected to be approved by the end of December.
Jayne Austin, service manager for fostering, said: “To build on the existing work already under way to recruit additional foster carers, five more fostering social workers have been recruited to the current team of 33.
“They will focus on recruiting, assessing and supporting additional foster care households.”
Together with a changed foster carer assessment process, introduced by the Government in July, the aim is to progress foster carer applications more speedily.
The council offers packages of support to its foster carers which is one of the reasons its level of retention is better than many other local authorities.
Support includes supervising social worker support during the assessment process and afterwards; a link with an experienced carer for new foster carers; financial allowances; a programme of activities for children and young people; and ongoing training and development.
To find out more about fostering, call the council’s recruitment team on 0845 301 8899 or visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering.
For further information on the Fair Deal for Nottinghamshire campaign, visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk