29 September 2023
The journey to improve children’s services across West Northamptonshire is continuing to make encouraging progress, despite ongoing financial pressures facing local authorities across the country.
At West Northamptonshire Council’s meeting last night (Thursday, 28 September), councillors from across political groups reaffirmed their support and commitment to working more closely with Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT) to address the challenges around a projected £14m overspend on children’s services whilst continuing to improve outcomes that protect and support children and young people.
Among the national factors contributing to the challenges in West Northants is the increase in the number of children and young people in care, high inflation driving up placement costs and a shortage of suitable placements due to a rise in the number of children with complex needs.
WNC and NCT are working together to find solutions to some of these issues while continuing to focus on better outcomes for children. One example of such initiative is the Circle 2 Success project (Valuing care) which is beginning to reap benefits for children and young people in care.
Circle 2 Success involves working closely with social workers and practitioners, spending time assessing and identifying children who with support could step down from a high-cost residential placement to a foster placement or return home. This work prioritises improving outcomes by considering the individual needs of every child and young person and ensuring they are safe and supported but, as a bi-product, is helping to reduce placement spend overall.
To date the project has had success and seen several children step down to foster care from residential as well as several children being able to return home with support. This has made a positive difference to the lives of children and young people whilst also contributing to just over £1m savings so far.
The project has also worked with children on the edge of care, supporting families to stay together, improving outcomes, and avoiding additional costs. To further improve the success of the project, more foster carers are needed so that children and young people can be stepped down from residential care into foster families.
Last night’s Council meeting showed support and commitment from all our members as corporate parents for improving the life chances of our children and young people.Fiona Baker, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education
Working closely with the Trust we are continuing to move in a positive direction in spite of these ongoing national pressures, finding solutions and alternative ways of working that will build on this progress further.
This includes exploring how we can better support fostering recruitment and retention as we know more foster carers will enable our children to have the right support at the right time. We are also supporting the development of children’s homes in the area and seeking to increase our supported accommodation for care leavers. These things will help reduce costs and achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people.
We remain optimistic that over time our services will be rated Good again. Last autumn’s raised Ofsted rating to ‘Requires Improvement to be Good’ shows we’re already making encouraging progress, but we know the journey is long and challenging with much more to be done.
The challenging national context around placement costs is leading to significant financial pressures in children’s services up and down the country and NCT is no exception.Julian Wooster, Chair of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust
Despite being a relatively new project, the Circle to Success project is already starting to show an encouraging trajectory and demonstrates the innovative and creative ways that our workforce is taking to achieve improved life chances for children and young people as well as making savings.
We welcome the support and commitment from WNC members at last night’s council meeting particularly at such a challenging time with many pressures.
NCT remain dedicated to continuing our improvement journey to be ‘good’. We are fully committed to improving the outcomes for children and young people and appreciate the support from West Northamptonshire Council to achieve this through lower cost initiatives.