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Costs, Cuts and Care

Depending on which figures you use, children's social care in England has been hit by something like a 25% cut in the last year. That would have a huge impact even if done in a planned, transparent way based on good evidence. But the pressure is on to cut spending now, today, this year. What I think we've seen for young people in care is that the bad practice that has always been around in some form in a small number of places, and that we don't ever seem able to be able to eradicate completely, is growing again.

For instance, I regularly hear that some young people are being moved to cheaper placements, when they might be stable and happy where they are, or squeezed into a foster placement when they really need specialist residential care. How can it be possible that 50% of young people are moved with almost no notice?

"We have to invest in young people now to give them a chance to choose the future that they deserve. To do otherwise costs them, and society, much, much more."

Young people need the best placement we can offer them, not the cheapest. In fact, cheaper doesn't always mean cheaper, anyway – in-house services seem to take priority regardless. It's also common to hear that young people are not having their needs recognised properly – assessment can be vague and underplay their needs – presumably because it would cost too much to offer the support they really need. We know the difficulty of getting access to good mental health support – it's even harder when assessment doesn't mention this might be needed. Young people are also being moved on from care before they're ready (so they cost less) and foster carers asked to move to Special Guardianship Orders, which can be the best thing for some young people, but where ongoing support is much less certain. There's no doubt that social workers are under huge pressure – large case loads, carrying high vacancy levels and more.

The problem with all of this is that the impact can't be seen immediately, but takes a while to hit home. So, do we cross our fingers and hope for the best? No. We have to invest in young people now to give them a chance to choose the future that they deserve. To do otherwise costs them, and society, much, much more.

02.07.12

by Harvey Gallagher

Published in Guest Articles

About the Author

Harvey Gallagher Harvey Gallagher Harvey is Chief Executive of the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers and has worked in public, private and voluntary sector services for children in care and children with mental health problems for the last 20 years. He's a father of four and from a family with experience of care.
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