An ambitious and innovative approach to improve the life chances of Somerset’s highest needs children was given the green light by Somerset County Council’s Cabinet this week (21 June).
The ten-year programme will deliver a new way of working which will address the needs of Somerset’s most complex children and young people who are cared for by the Council.
This new service will create new employment and career development opportunities and promote growth and development in the social care sector in Somerset
Children supported by this new service are more likely to have lots of difficulties. They are more likely to be victims of exploitation and go missing from home. They are less likely to go to school or training and have good future employment prospects. They can end up living a long way from the familiarity of their local school, family, and friends.
The council will be seeking a strategic partner(s) to provide up to 10 new small homes in Somerset, linking these to foster carers and therapeutic education to provide a seamless service that will help children and young people to grow and flourish.
Combining foster care and small homes will offer young people the experience of a stable home environment and the opportunity to live with a family when they are ready. Skilled therapists from different agencies and teachers will work together to provide wraparound support designed to meet their individual needs.
This new innovative way of providing stable and nurturing homes provides an opportunity to improve how these children and young people are cared for, providing the right support at the right time, to enable them to become successful independent adults.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Somerset County Council said: “We are developing an innovative service with a strategic partner to support our most vulnerable children and young people looked after in Somerset.”
“Our children and young people have shared their thoughts on what makes a good home. It must be safe, clean and warm and the people there must be understanding, honest, kind and helpful. It must be in a good location for school/work and freedom and free time. The young people have told us they do not like being away from the areas they know and want to be able to make enduring friendships. We are committed to delivering this for them.”
“With the new small homes with specialist staff and links with foster carers, we will be able to provide individual support: the right intervention at the right time that will bring the children and young people stability and improve their future life chances.”
More information about the project can be found: Somerset County Council
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Somerset foster carer, please check out www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk or contact 0800 587 9900.
Notes to editors
- The Council has a statutory duty to provide good quality placements within Somerset to support children who are looked after (Children Act 1989). These homes can be provided in several ways, through foster carers, in children’s homes or residential schools.
- Government has announced a Competition and Markets Authority review into providers of care – CMA launches study of children’s social care provision – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and a national care review. Independent review of children’s social care – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- The Council currently buys homes for children through frameworks or individual arrangements from private providers of children’s homes, fostering and independent, non-maintained schools
- Costs in Somerset for both children’s homes and high needs fostering have continued to increase. In 2020/21 83 residential placements were commissioned costing £15.5 million a year. This spend has risen by an average of 16.2% over the last 2 years. Projecting these costs forward indicate that spend will increase.
- It is proposed that the council seeks a strategic partner to develop this provision over the next five years, with the aim to extend these arrangements for a further five years.
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