Zahawi reveals initiatives to spearhead £84m drive to reduce care numbers

By Neil Puffett

| 02 November 2018

Details of initiatives that will be expanded to other local authorities as part of an £84m drive to reduce the number of children being taken into care have been revealed by children's minister Nadhim Zahawi.

The government wants to reduce the number of young people being taken into care. Picture: Shutterstock

Delivering the 2018 budget earlier this week Chancellor Philip Hammond said £84m would be provided over the next five years to expand successful children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with "high or rising" numbers of children in care.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi revealed in a tweet that the expansion will focus on projects currently running in three local authorities - Hertfordshire, Leeds, and North Yorkshire.

Each of the three councils have been running projects as part of the Department for Education's Social Care Innovation Programme that have led to local reductions in the number of children being taken into care.

Department for Education figures show that the number of children in care is rising at its fastest rate in five years. There were 72,670 children in care in the 12 months to the end of March 2017, compared with 70,440 the year before and 69,480 in 2015. The latest figures, as of March 2018, are due to be published this month.

Zahawi's tweet (below) has since been deleted.


The Family Safeguarding initiative in Hertfordshire, which received £4.1m DfE innovation funding, aims to keep more families together safely. A July 2017 evaluation report found a pre-project monthly average of 1,055 child in need and 969 child protection cases in Hertfordshire between November 2014 and March 2015, falling to 962 and 687 respectively between April 2015 and June 2016.

The average number of days children spent in care reduced from 20.5 to 9.8 per family in the five months after allocation to the initiative. These reductions saved an estimated £2.67m in the first 12 months.

Hertfordshire has already helped Peterborough, Luton, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire councils replicate its approach, through a further £11.6m innovation grant.

Meanwhile, Leeds received £4.85m of DfE funding to establish the Family Valued programme to spread restorative practice across children's services and the social work service, and expand the use of the family group conferencing service to a scale not previously seen in the UK, including for families experiencing domestic violence.

An evaluation report published in July 2017 found that at the time of analysis, 16 months into the programme, almost all of the desired Family Valued outcomes had been achieved. There were statistically significant reductions in the number of looked-after children, the rate of looked-after children, the number of child protection plans, and the number of children in need.

North Yorkshire, which became the first children's services department to be rated "outstanding" across the board under the single inspection framework in August, has been running the No Wrong Door programme since 2015, with £2.1m of funding from the DfE's innovation fund.

As part of the initiative, young people on the edge of care and their families are given access to round-the-clock support to resolve issues that can lead to children going into care from a team of specialist professionals while staying in a children's home "hub".

The initiative has helped the authority hit its 2017/18 target of reducing the number of looked-after children from 468 in June 2014 to 400 at the beginning of June 2017. Of the edge-of-care young people it engaged until September last year, 86 per cent remained at home.

No details on which 20 councils will benefit from the additional funding have been provided.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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