Special child care ‘under control’

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RELENTLESS rises in the number of children across Edinburgh who need special care are finally being brought under control, according to new analysis.

Updated figures show 1410 vulnerable city youngsters required services ranging from secure care to residential schools by March last year – up from 1228 in 2007.

But a “transformation programme” aimed at reversing the growth trend is bearing fruit, with a reduction of 18 placements to date this year.

City bosses say the improved numbers is due to better support for young families thanks to new funding streams, as well as more effective early intervention by schools.

Child welfare leaders said early signs of a turnaround were “commendable”.

Alison Todd, director of children and family services at Children 1st, said: “We really welcome this news and hope it marks a transformational change in the way vulnerable children are looked after in Edinburgh. The council are to be commended on the investment they have made in early years provision because we know that help from the start of a child’s life can make a massive difference.”

Council leaders said year-on-year rises in the number of looked-after children had created a major financial headache as they target Edinburgh-wide savings running to £120 million over the next four years.

An average of 33 children have been added to the city’s lists each year since 2007 – forcing the council to budget for annual spending increases of £1.8m or £10.7m overall.

But they said a £36.5m “transformation investment” programme – set to inject funds into preventative and early years initiatives such as parenting support and boosting council-employed foster carers – was having a significant impact and would net them £65.4m in total savings and cost reductions by 2017-18.

Leaders at Children 1st said they were particularly happy about planned spending to help extended families become more closely involved with ­children in difficulty.

“Children do better when they stay within their families which is why we have pioneered the use of Family Group Conferencing as a way of 
getting all the adults in a child’s family life together to find ways of supporting them,” said Ms Todd.

“Edinburgh City Council also uses this technique and along with other changes it seems to be having a positive impact. We can’t rest though, more must be done.

“We’ll keep on working for change like this until all children enjoy a happy, healthy, safe and secure childhood.”

City leaders said they were determined to achieve further improvements.

Councillor Paul Godzik, children and families leader, said: “As a council we are committed to reducing the number of children who need to go into care and that’s why we have invested in a series of preventative services to ensure support for vulnerable children at the earliest stage possible.

“It is extremely heartening to see the positive effects of the transformation programme just nine months in, which demonstrate the advantages of early intervention for vulnerable children. By providing ­support to them and their families we aim to ensure all children are given the best possible start in life.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com