Children Looked After Sufficiency Strategy 2019 - 2022 and Market Position Statement
Decision Maker: Cabinet
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
To approve the Sufficiency Strategy and Market
Councillor Bernie Mooney introduced a report which reminded Cabinet Members of the increase in numbers of children looked after in Wirral over the last 3 years and informed that this trend was replicated across the North West. It was noted that the increase had coincided with a decline in the number of recruited foster carers across the region resulting in all local authorities having difficulties in providing sufficient placements. The supply and demand issue in foster care had resulted in children’s home placements being used for children who previously would have been looked after by foster carers. The overall placement market was, therefore, more challenging than at any point in recent or distant history. Councillor Mooney reported that in order to respond to the challenges outlined it was essential that the Council developed a robust approach to commissioning services, and that it worked in a transparent and collaborative manner with placement providers.
Councillor Bernie Mooney also reported that Wirral’s Looked After Children Sufficiency Strategy 2019 - 2022 had set out how the local authority and its partners worked together to provide the best environments for children in care and care leavers over the next three years. Part of that would include ensuring that there were enough alternatives to care, through for example, supporting families to stay together or finding alternative permanent homes for children. It would be about ensuring, where that was not possible, children stayed locally and in family-based settings. It would also include ensuring that there was a choice of high-quality provision for all children, at whatever stage in their life, that was designed around their needs and wishes so that they could grow into independent, healthy and successful adults.
The Cabinet noted that the Strategy was aligned to Wirral’s Market Position Statement (MPS) which provided an overview of current position and predicted demand for provision over the next two years. This Strategy sought to outline the Council’s overall approach to managing that demand and focusing on the right solutions and choices to provide children with the best possible outcomes.
The Cabinet also noted that Children Looked After by the Council had left their birth family homes and were placed in accommodation across the borough. Therefore, the approval of the Strategy and Market Position Statement was a key decision for Cabinet.
Appended to the report was:
· Appendix 1 – The Wirral Children Looked After Sufficiency Strategy 2019 – 2020; and
· Appendix 2 – Wirral’s Market Position Statement (MPS) based on current and predicted need.
No other options had been considered.
Councillor Mooney reported that both the Sufficiency Strategy and the Market Position Statement recognised the significant challenge the Council faced in terms of the numbers of its looked after children (840+) and the challenge with the placement market at the current time. The key response to these challenges was to look at further developments of the in-house resources by developing the in-house fostering service to ensure that it was more responsive to the needs of the cohort of looked after children and also to develop the capacity in a residential market, locally, with a specific focus on the Local Authority recommissioning its own Children’s Homes. Whilst the Strategy aimed to ensure good quality and responsive in-house services it was recognised that there was a continuing need to commission services from external providers. Indeed, the Sufficiency duty required the Local Authority to work collaboratively across all market sectors to secure locally Sufficiency.
Therefore, Councillor Mooney reported that the key part of the Strategy also involved engaging with providers in an open and transparent way to better shape external markets ensuring that its own procedures enabled rather than hindered securing local placements that better met the needs of the Council’s looked after children, working collaboratively across the City Region to develop opportunities for joint commissioning, particularly, in relation to a more specialist type of provision.
Councillor Mooney informed that the market position statement outlined the main current types of placements for looked after children (fostering, residential, supported accommodation and independent living). The Strategy also set out the Council’s commissioning intentions based on the predicted demands of these placements. It outlined overreach and commissioning intentions for looked after children in order to provide clear and focused aims to ensure a good quality local placement for all children in the care of the Local Authority.
Councillor Mooney reported that the Sufficiency Strategy was derived from the legal duty placed on the Local Authority to have a Strategy in place that described how the Council intended to ensure sufficient care placements for children in care. The statutory guidelines set out the requirement for local authorities to work with key partners to secure enough accommodation for children in care which met the needs of the children in the Local Authority’s area. The Strategy, therefore, set out an overall approach to managing demand and focused on the right solution and choice to provide children with the best possible outcomes. The provision was set out in the Strategy with eight key objectives which Councillor Mooney detailed as follows:
(1) Supporting children to stay with their families where it is safe to do so.
(2) Achieving permanency in a timely manner through adoption and special guardianships.
(3) Sourcing local placements.
(4) Matching children with good quality placements to meet their needs.
(5) Ensuring the existence of a range of targeted universal and specialised services that will respond to children where they need them.
(6) Children looked after will be prepared for independence and healthy adulthood.
(7) Strengthening the strategic approach for commissioning.
(8) Ensuring all external commissioners placements are subject to robust and regular review.
Councillor Mooney reminded the Cabinet that the Strategy provided more details on how these objectives would be achieved.
Councillor Mooney informed that, as this was her last meeting, she wanted to thank all her Cabinet Member colleagues because they had worked together as a fantastic team. She informed that none of them could have achieved the things that they had achieved as a Cabinet without good leadership. Councillor Phil Davies had been a fabulous Leader. Councillor Mooney outlined some of the things the Cabinet had achieved which included the following:
· Community wealth building
· Social Value Policy
· The Community Bank
· The Growth Company
· An additional £20m for Children’s Services
· A Budget that has protected local services
Councillor Mooney told Councillor Phil Davies that this had all taken great leadership, it had been an absolute privilege for her to be his deputy and she wished him nothing but the best for the future.
(1) the Looked After Children Sufficiency Strategy 2019-2022 attached at Appendix 1 to the report be approved; and
(2) the Market Position Statement attached at Appendix 2 to the report be approved.
Report author: Colleen Halpin
Publication date: 12/04/2019
Date of decision: 25/03/2019
Decided at meeting: 25/03/2019 - Cabinet
Effective from: 24/04/2019