Fresh concerns of an ‘imminent crisis’ facing children’s services have hit the headlines following the President of the High Court family division’s warning of a hugely overburdened system.
The picture painted by Sir James Munby is alarming; in the past 10 years the number of care applications going through the courts has doubled, yet “everyone is working as hard as they can”, he asserts.
All this, of course, is happening against a backdrop of depleted funding. For children’s services this equates to a 38% reduction in spending on children’s centres and early years and a 53% drop in funds allocated to youth services. Yet, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) reports a 21% increase in referrals, a 65% increase in the number of children becoming subjects of child protection plans and a 48% rise in the number of children starting to be looked after. This is causing immense pressure on social care, legal services and the judiciary.
We too have no doubt that everyone is working hard, so what’s the solution?
We need to be proactive and lean towards strengthening edge of care services in line with strengthening families if we stand a chance of driving down the number of children becoming looked after.
If a family’s problems can be resolved after only 1 to 3 months of foster care, then we must consider the honest answer as to why intensive temporary in-house services aren’t being provided to bridge the gap instead?
Reunification should not be a case of ‘ready or not here I come’. Instead, we should be empowering individuals and communities to take control; to build empathy and forge better relationships. This restorative approach has a direct impact on individual families whilst encouraging whole communities to support each other.
It’s only by ensuring that families have the support they need and by working with them individually, emphasising strengths, encouraging success and modifying techniques that are not working, can we expect effective outcomes.
We are confident this can be achieved in what is an incredibly challenging time for local authorities and we have a long history of addressing both the quality and cost of services to Looked After Children.
Here at Skylakes, our restorative approach to looked after children programme delivers immediate and better outcomes, with annual savings of between 10-15% after a 12 month intervention.
Our interventions directly involve the individual in the decisions affecting them, explain the reasoning for a decision to everyone involved and make sure everybody has a clear understanding of that decision and what is expected of them in the future. It’s only then that we can guide the way home.