MILLIONS of pounds are to be invested in keeping more children out of care.
Staffordshire County Council is allocating an additional £8.1m for additional frontline staff and more preventative work to keep children with their families rather than being taken into care.
The ambition is that by 2026 the success of the preventative work means there will be more than 400 fewer looked after children than the current record level of 1,248.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “Our top priority remains protecting vulnerable children and supporting them to become happy, confident, independent adults and we want to achieve that by keeping them out of care where it is safe to do so.
“Families tell us that they do not want to be caught up in ‘the system’ and evidence shows it is better for everyone if we can intervene early and find solutions in the family group or the community.”
The county council’s children’s social care services were again rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted at its most recent inspection earlier this year, despite facing increasing pressures.
In the last 10 years the number of children in Staffordshire who are receiving the most intensive support from social services has risen from 1138 to 1,984, with the cost of caring for the most vulnerable, including looked after children, increasing from £59.1m to £116.5m.
Coun Sutton added: “We have a dedicated team doing outstanding work in often difficult circumstances.
“This significant additional investment sustains our work supporting vulnerable children at a time when Government support isn’t keeping pace.”
Funding includes provision for an additional 34 family support workers across Staffordshire and two new court teams, as well as training for existing staff and a move towards a more ‘district-based’ approach.
The strategy also dovetails with the county council’s policy to support children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) by increasing the focus on educating pupils in their own communities and seeking local and district level solutions wherever possible.
A report to be considered by both the county council’s cabinet and the Safe and Strong scrutiny committee says that the move towards having strengthened district teams and a more localised approach should be established by April 2021.