More than 100 children in care placed outside county

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 07:45

By Bradley Gerrard - Local Democracy Reporter

About 875 children are placed in residential homes or foster care by Devon County Council, which acts as what is called a ‘corporate parent’ when young people can’t remain at home.

More than 100 children in Devon County Council’s care are have been sent out of the county to live.
About 875 children are placed in residential homes or foster care by Devon County Council, which acts as what is called a ‘corporate parent’ when young people can’t remain at home.
Roughly 300 children are in placements beyond Devon’s administrative boundary, most of whom are in either Plymouth or Torbay, which aren’t part of the county council area.
But Devon’s children’s scrutiny committee heard this week that more than 100 children are in other counties, partly because of the council’s historic poor relationship with residential care providers.
“We are doing a huge piece of work with our commissioning colleagues in terms of our relationship with providers, as unfortunately we have picked up a legacy of some providers not wanting to work with Devon,” said Stuart Collins, director of children and young people’s futures, who joined the council last year. “But we are chipping away at it and improving it.”
The meeting heard that the council wants to “get that group back to local placements”, although some children with complex needs might mean they have to have specialist provision elsewhere.
Cllr Alister Dewhirst (Liberal Democrat, Ipplepen & The Kerswells) asked if the council has capacity to cater to the children placed in other counties.
Mr Collins said the council is creating an additional 12 to 14 residential places of its own, but using existing private sector provision alongside this makes sense.
“We do know that there is enough private provision in children’s homes in Devon to accommodate those children, assuming we find the right match, but our relationship with providers has not been good in the past, so those providers are more likely to have taken children from other local authorities,” he said.
“We have to rebuild those relationships to make sure we get places in Devon for children in Devon.”
Cllr Andrew Leadbetter (Conservative, Wearside and Topsham), cabinet member for children’s services and schools, said the council is “working hard to get everyone in Devon” where the circumstances allowed and that children’s service as a whole is making steady improvements.
“The recent data shows everything is moving in the right direction, and we are looking forward to the Ofsted visit this year,” he said.
“The number of children in care is coming down, and there is a huge amount of work going on across the service , and I believe we are being ambitious enough and that our targets will be achieved.
“Essex, our sector lead improvement partner, is working hard with us, and they have some great ideas and are helping us to improve our service; while there is still work to do, we are pleased with the way things are going.”
Crucially, Cllr Leadbetter said the service’s so-called ‘front door’ is functioning better, meaning enquiries about whether children should be taken into care are being considered better.

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