Lack of foster carers costs county £4m

A LACK of foster carers in Suffolk forced social services to shell out more than £4m on expensive placements last year.When the county council is unable to place children within its own resources, it is forced to pay out for 'purchased placements' from other agencies or individual carers.

A LACK of foster carers in Suffolk forced social services to shell out more than £4m on expensive placements last year.

When the county council is unable to place children within its own resources, it is forced to pay out for 'purchased placements' from other agencies or individual carers.

For the most vulnerable children, who are in need of secure accommodation, these can cost more than £4000 a week.

Chris Lane, spokesman for Suffolk County Council's social services department, said: "In 2003/04 the cost of purchased placements was £4.48 million.


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"These are placements we have to buy from an independent agencies. It could be a residential childrens' home or NHS accommodation or could be a specialist carer, who might have their home in the county but is not actually working directly for us."

The purchased placements are used for children with a variety of conditions that require specialist care, for example physical disabilities, learning disabilities or behavioural problems.

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One of the most expensive areas is secure accommodation for children who are thought to be at risk to themselves if they were in the community, and where ordinary foster care arrangements would not be suitable.

There are currently only two of these in progress but they are costing a combined total of £8,223 per week.

Using a number of methods the council have managed to keep the numbers of these secure placements down, as well as reducing the numbers of children in any kind of purchased placement.

In 2002/3 there were 136 children in purchased placements, this went down to 89 in 2003/4. The council hopes the figure for 2004/5 will be slightly lower than this.

Mr Lane said: "We would obviously rather use our own foster carers but there are not enough of them, and not enough of the right sort.

"We have managed to get the numbers down through a combination of things. "We have a new family and friends policy where we work formally to try and find members of the family, or even close friends of the family, who could be potential carers.

"They are very closely vetted and interviewed but in the long run it saves money and is much better for the children. We can then spend more money on those children with very special needs, out of the 650 children we look after at any one time."

If you are interested in fostering or adoption can be found on www.suffolkfostering.com or www.suffolkadoption.com

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