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Reflections from the North West

I write this having recently been talking with my team about a very difficult placement sufficiency ‘market’ (how we come to use the language we do about children needing loving homes is beyond me!). The North West, alongside other regions, is struggling to meet the needs of children in our care, the most basic of which is the need for a loving home. Local authority children’s services find we are ‘squeezed’ in the middle of what I would call ‘an imperfect storm’ that leaves – put frankly – children’s services and their local authorities ‘footing the bill’ – and the bill gets bigger each week.

We celebrate reductions in children being admitted to Tier 4 (none of us want to see children in these provisions bar for the most complex of our children). We rightly celebrate the reduction in the use of custody for children. We worry about the lack of suitable, affordable housing and the increases we are starting to see as a result in homeless children and families. We worry about the number of vulnerable separated migrant children arriving to the country and then require age assessing and invariably come into our care.

The result of the above – increasing numbers of children in care, with insufficient move on accommodation for our care leavers (who remain in semi-independent too long – locally into ‘adulthood’, reducing opportunities for other children to move on). An increasing number of complex children in unregistered provision with social workers and community CAMHS teams trying, often failing, to wrap around to meet needs. Costs go up week by week, with one provider offering the same placement 2 weeks apart seeing fit to increase charges by over 50% with no rhyme nor reason.

We all looked with hope to the Care Review to put a stop to this, to help us to find the solution. Whilst I commend much of the review, the plans around Regional Care Co-operatives do not, as ADCS has said, go far enough. We must remove profiteering in the care market. We must be accountable and hold our health partners accountable to find new solutions together to develop, commission and fund suitable non tier 4 provision for our most complex children. We need a national housing strategy that is fit for purpose to create much needed accommodation for all. There is much to do.

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