£10,000-a-week care homes pose budget challenge for Nottinghamshire Council

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A lack of foster carers has been named as the biggest challenge facing Nottinghamshire’s care system.

A reduction in available carers has forced the county council to rely on residential homes to look after children in its care instead.

Alongside not being seen as the preferred option for children, homes are considerably more expensive.

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A typical foster placement costs the Nottinghamshire taxpayer between £500 and £1,000 per week, depending on the needs of the child and how the carer was recruited.

Lack of foster carers is putting a strain on the council budgets. Photo: SubmittedLack of foster carers is putting a strain on the council budgets. Photo: Submitted
Lack of foster carers is putting a strain on the council budgets. Photo: Submitted

However a residential placement has an average weekly cost of around £6,000, but can be as high as £10,000.

While some children with severe needs are best placed in specialist care homes, the council says children tend to have better outcomes when they’re looked after by foster families.

The lack of foster carers mean residential homes are becoming a costly alternative for the council.

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Coun Tracey Taylor (Con), cabinet member for children and families, highlighted the issue as the most serious challenge facing the system over the next year.

She said: “It’s the costs, less foster carers mean more expensive care and more foster carers means less expensive care, which has a big impact on the budget.

"We need to be getting placements in the right areas.

The council is legally responsible for looking after children who can’t live with their own families.

Colin Pettigrew, corporate director, children, families and cultural services, said: “There has been a reduction in foster carers across the country.

"The reduction is above average in Nottinghamshire.

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“We need to reverse that, and consider how we support and fund fosterers.”

Two-thirds of Nottinghamshire children in care are currently in foster placements or living with other family or friends.

The Department for Education recently awarded £1.8m to support recruitment and retention of carers to Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council.

A new recruitment scheme – Foster for East Midlands – was launched last month to manage enquiries from the four authorities, and aims to find at least 100 new carers.

A project has also been launched across the two counties to improve retention, including taking feedback from children in care themselves.

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