Keeping families together

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THE number of children in care has fallen in Cambridgeshire over the last 12 months, in contrast to the national trend.

Data released recently by the Department for Education has shown numbers of Looked After Children continue to increase across England but in Cambridgeshire the total has fallen from 508 in September 2010 to 472 in the September of this year.

The reduction in Cambridgeshire is down to a combination of more effective work with families by social workers and other children’s services staff, before they reach the point of crisis. It is also due to more success at quickly finding suitable alternative families or placements for children who do come into care. Both successes will mean that these most vulnerable children will have a better experience through this difficult time.

These objectives were the focus of Cambridgeshire’s Placements Strategy for Looked After Children, which was approved by the County Council’s Cabinet and the Children’s Trust in February 2011.

In Children’s Social Care, thresholds into care have remained the same, but the focus has been on driving out any delay in care planning so that adopters or kinship placements are found as quickly as possible and reunification with birth families is supported where this is in the interests of the child or young person.

There has also been a significant focus on ensuring that universal and early intervention services such as children’s centres and schools are able to identify vulnerable children and families and target support to them before problems get worse.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Executive Director for Children and Young People’s Services Adrian Loades said: “The message we’ve been reinforcing is that keeping families together and reducing the number of children in care is everyone’s responsibility, right across the children’s workforce in Cambridgeshire. Fantastic teaching in schools, the right support for new parents in the early years, engaging youth work, the availability of mental health support, our ability to identify vulnerable children and families and a great many other factors are all just as important as the excellent work of our social workers in keeping families together.”

Cllr David Brown, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services added: “I am really pleased to see the early impact of our strategy. Keeping families together and thereby reducing the number of children looked after is an example of where successful early intervention and prevention can deliver both better outcomes for our communities and significant savings for public services. This success is down to the excellence, hard work and dedication of people who work with children and young people every day, right across the county and right across our children’s partnership.”