Number of children in care set to fall

THE stubbornly high number of children in care in Norfolk could be on the brink of falling - thanks to the large number of older teenagers approaching the time to go it alone.

THE stubbornly high number of children in care in Norfolk could be on the brink of falling - thanks to the large number of older teenagers approaching the time to go it alone.

The county has fought for years to reduce the figure of youngsters in children's homes and foster care, which reached an all-time high of 856 in September 2007 and is currently at 846.

Yesterday, children's services cabinet member Rosalie Monbiot said a downturn was on the horizon because so many young people in care were reaching the age of 18 in the coming 16 months. She told Norfolk County Council's cabinet that young people had to leave care at 18.

She said: “Forty-six young people will become 18 by March 31, 2009, of whom 12 are high-cost residential placements costing £910,000 per year.


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“The number of young people becoming 18 during 2009/10 is 10 a month, which compares to a recent average of only four per month.”

Mrs Monbiot said the extra six children leaving care each month would save the council an estimated £1.3m. When that was set against a failure to make savings in the department in 2008/9, it meant an estimated annual saving in 2009/10 of £935,000.

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Despite the potential fall, it is unlikely that senior officers or councillors will be making any bold predictions about future numbers.

In 2007/8 the council budgeted for 777 looked-after children by March 31, 2008, - a big fall from the September 2007 high of 856. Although the 777 appeared unlikely, in November 2007 children's services director Lisa Christensen predicted the number would fall to 791.

By the end of the financial year, it stood at 835, and Shelagh Hutson, who chaired a scrutiny group looking into the ongoing issue, said setting targets was “just not realistic”.

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