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Council agrees to invest in residential care for vulnerable children

Council agrees to invest in residential care for vulnerable children

by Tom Martin (January 2021)

Councillors have agreed plans to improve services for some of Lancashire's most vulnerable children, ensuring that a range of specialist support and accommodation is available to best suit the needs of those in residential care.

A report to Lancashire County Council's cabinet detailed the outcome of a review into the council's in-house residential care for young people, which aims to ensure that the council's own facilities support those available privately so that the needs of children in care can be met within Lancashire without the need to place them too far from their families, schools, and support networks.

It will see a number of new beds being established across a range of residential facilities. This includes:

- 2 new Adolescent Support Units, each of 4 beds, to be established to provide support and accommodation for children aged between 10 and 17. Expanding the council's provision to 12 beds in total, this will increase availability across the county so that children can be placed as close as possible to their identified place, community, family and education as possible. These units are most often used to provide families with support and short-term respite, while outreach workers support the family in repairing the relationship with their child.

- The establishment of 2 reception homes, small units where children who are being newly taken into care can receive very close care and support while professionals carefully assess their needs and find the right place for them longer term.

Proposals were also agreed to reduce the number of mainstream beds from 48 to 36 as these are less costly to commission from independent providers. However this will allow for an increase of 9 beds, split between 3 new units, provided directly by the county council for children with complex needs who require more support, as it is better value for money to provide these in-house.

The report outlined that the proposals to increase the county council's own provision would require an initial investment, however considerable savings would be made within three years which would offset any increase in running costs by significantly reducing the need to place children with private providers or outside the county.

The county council also operates a Short Breaks Service, providing respite care to children with disabilities for short periods to support them in a stable permanent home, as well as specialist residential care for children in crisis to provide immediate accommodation at short notice where a child has nowhere else to live. No change is being proposed to these services.

County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "The council's residential service is absolutely vital to ensure that those most vulnerable children who come into our care are well looked after.
"We have recently reviewed the places available across Lancashire, as well as consulting with private providers, and the investment agreed by cabinet today will ensure that we continue to have access to a range of high quality specialist residential care to best meet the needs of vulnerable children in the future.

"All the research shows that children who remain looked after by their families, where it is safe to do so, are more likely to reach their potential and remain in positive relationships with their family, and much of our work is focused towards this.

"However there will always be a need to provide some children with a secure and caring environment when they cannot currently stay with their family, or while their needs are assessed and longer term placements for fostering or adoption can be arranged."

Around 20 new children come into care in Lancashire each week, and the county council's fostering and adoption services are always working to recruit new carers.

A new campaign was launched this week to dispel some of the common myths about fostering and encourage people to come forward and help local children.

You can be single, and don't need to own your own home, or have any qualifications, to become a foster carer. Lancashire County Council welcomes foster carers from all different backgrounds. The key requirement is that you can provide a loving home for a vulnerable young person.

Generous allowances are available for new and experienced foster carers, and the county council provides a huge range of training, support and guidance for foster carers.

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