New project could save council cash as it provides better care for looked after children

Win, win: Councillors approve a money saving scheme with no risk to the authority
Win, win: Councillors approve a money saving scheme with no risk to the authority
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A new scheme aimed at getting children out of care and back living with their families is expected to be launched in Rotherham, though councillors have insisted it is financed through a deal which avoids any risk to the authority.

At the moment there are around 650 cared for children in the town and it is known their life chances improve when they are in a position to move back to their family home or to enter the foster care system.

Costs of children in care are high and it is believed the council can score a double victory by reducing its costs when youngsters can leave that system, along with an improvement in their chances of developing normally into their adult lives.

The scheme would involve children in the 11 to 15 age group, who would be put through a 12 week course and councillors on a scrutiny panel were told by deputy leader Coun Gordon Watson: “They will be worked with closely for 12 weeks, the idea being that at the end of 12 weeks they will be ready to go home, or if that is not possible to go into foster care.

“We know that gives better outcomes most of the time than residential care.”

Some of the money for the scheme would come from savings made by not having to look after those involved in a conventional care home setting, but that would only cover part of the bill.

Scrutiny councillors were asked to allow one of the council’s senior financial officers to make the financial decision on where the rest of the money would be found, with the preferred option being ‘social bonds’, where the money was made available from private sources with a percentage of interest paid.

The advantage to the council was because that was not its own money, if the scheme failed it would not make a loss. The disadvantage was that if the scheme should succeed, the savings to the council would be lower, because of the interest payments.

Coun Watson said: “My personal view is that by borrowing money from a group of individuals, the risk lays with them. If it doesn’t save any money, they have taken the financial risk.

“It doesn’t pay huge dividends, it is not like going to the banks,” he said.

However, scrutiny councillors approved the scheme but took the decision to follow social bonds funding route, rather than allowing officials to decide.