Council's £9m plan to stop children in care being 'passed around'

sad child with his head between his legs left alone at home.

Children in care often say that constantly changing faces and care workers can cause them distress - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For children in and out of the care system, and the foster parents who look after them, the steady stream of new faces can "start to feel a little bit crazy".

But a £9m scheme designed to "reduce the cycle" of young people moving between foster placements and care workers is due to be discussed by Norfolk County Councillors on Monday.

The "No Wrong Door" project, which will see £5m of government investment topped up with £4m by the council itself, was first developed in North Yorkshire. 

Children are under an increased chance of being abused during lockdown says the NSPCC Picture: Tom H

Norfolk County Council is spending £4m on the No Wrong Door project - Credit: Tom Hull

It assigns young people with an integrated team that "sticks with" them, and stops them being passed from person to person ("No Wrong Door").

This in turn reduces arrests, hospital admissions, missing episodes and the likelihood of a child having to leave their foster family because of a relationship breakdown.

It's also hoped it will save the council money. As of October 2020, care placements were costing NCC £55m per year, and £12k per week for some individuals.

At the heart of the service will be a residential "Hub" offering emergency placements at short notice.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Norwich - Credit: Archant

In Norfolk, The Lodge and Norwich Road children's homes will become 'Hubs', creating 19 full-time jobs. 

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For Tracey and her husband, who have been fostering for the last three years, the idea of a central hub and one core team will "definitely minimise disruption" for children in care, and make things easier for foster parents too.

She said: "I've fostered dozens of children, teenagers and even young mums with babies over the last few years.

"There's so many teams involved it can feel quite crazy. Children just get passed around constantly.

"As soon as the children get attached to one social worker, another comes along. There's almost a new face every week.

"And if a placement doesn't work out, because your foster child maybe hasn't had that support and continuity, you feel like a failure when you have to give up on them. It's horrible, and that feeling never leaves you."

On the idea of a "hub", she added: "One time I was given two hours notice that a girl needed a bed for the night. She was sitting in the school office waiting to be told where it was she was going.

"That can't be right. There needs to be a back-up for children in those situations. It's unbearable thinking about what some of them go through."

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