We all know that we live in changed times where national economic circumstances and the reduction of central government grants to local authorities is a challenge to us all. However challenges also create opportunities; to find new ways to maintain service provision and respond locally to the national trend of more children being taken into care and an opportunity to think creatively about the way we do things and to explore new ways of working with partners and our communities.
Early intervention is not a new concept, but perhaps it is one more of us should be revisiting, especially now that the onus is directly on local government to employ decreasing resources more effectively, reduce costs and deliver better outcomes for citizens.
I am proud that for Nottingham City Council early intervention is seen as an important principle in all that we do. We provide robust and well managed social care systems, and we are grateful to our dedicated cohort of foster carers and residential workers; by stepping in early we can help reduce the flow of children entering the care system in the first place, as well as achieving short and long term savings and better outcomes for our young people and their families.
A little over a year ago, we began working with Safe Families for Children, a national, faith-based charity, whose role is to provide early intervention support to families in crisis using volunteers to support them in the very early stages of their need. Councils are increasingly valuing the contribution that faith communities make in our communities and as we realise we can no longer do everything that we once did, it is partnerships like this that can offer the way forward. Safe Families were able to provide families with respite care, befriending and mentoring, and the resources they needed to cope with difficult challenges which may previously have led to the break-up of their family. After the first twelve months, we conducted a full audit of the service which revealed some compelling results.
Reducing the flow of children into care
A review of cases (from July 2015 to July 2016) where Safe Families has been involved, shows that an extra 35 children would have been accommodated in emergency short-term care if they had not been supported through volunteer intervention.
In almost 80% of cases, this would have been for a short period of time due to temporary parental incapacity. In the remaining 20% of cases, it is likely that the children would have entered care for a longer period, because the family lacked the support networks to cope with the circumstances they faced. In both groups, the intervention of Safe Families prevented the children from being accommodated.
By avoiding 35 additional admissions into emergency short-term care Safe Families for Children has reduced the flow by 12% over 12 months.
When families are supported by Safe Families as an alternative to care, there are also knock on effects. Families are less likely to request short term care accommodation in the future if they have received support from Safe Families. Those who have accessed short term care as a means of dealing with family crises can become desensitised to the prospect of their children spending time in the care system, so are more likely to request intervention as a means of support in dealing with a future crisis. It is highly likely therefore that those children who receive hosting support from Safe Families will avoid repeated short stay periods in care. We look forward to continuing this innovative partnership and to the support that it can give families who are struggling.
Councillor David Mellen
Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years
Nottingham City Council
Published by Children and Young People Now