Foster care drive to plug £2.2m Nottinghamshire County Council's budget shortfall

Nottinghamshire County Council plans to recruit more in-house foster carers to plug a £2.2 million black hole in its children and young people’s budget.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 8:00 am

This is according to the authority’s finance chairman, who says one of the biggest factors in the budget overspend relates to recruitment problems during the pandemic.

Newly-published finance committee documents show the authority is experiencing the underlying shortfall even after the use of Covid funds.

There is a £300,000 overspend relating to looked-after children’s placements, while £1.9m has been spent housing children affected by the closure of Southwell’s Minster View children’s home.

Nottinghamshire Council's headquarters in West Bridgford.

This is up from the previous figure of £1.2m, though a report on the home – which temporarily closed due to an ‘emerging picture’ of lacking best practice – will be published in December.

Councillor Richard Jackson said the budget strain is a national picture, with Covid causing councils to look to the private sector as foster recruitment stalls.

He said the authority is looking into early intervention in the long-term, but its immediate plan requires more foster carers in-house.

He said: “We’re doing a good job of preventing children going into care, which means our costs are lower than other councils, but they’re still rising.

Coun Samantha Deakin.

“In the shorter term, it’s about trying to recruit our own foster carers, rather than needing to go out to external, private foster agencies which are more expensive and don’t provide as good outcomes.

“Over the last 18 months, while we’ve been telling people they can’t mix in households, people have been reluctant to come forward in normal numbers.

“This explains a lot of the overspend.”

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Placements

Council figures show the county has 993 looked-after children requiring care, with the authority needing to find 554 placements since April.

Coun Jackson said the biggest drive over the coming months will be recruiting more foster carers.

But the budget overspend has led to concern from the opposition.

Coun Samantha Deakin said: “It’s clear the finances of children’s services are at stretching point.

“This is not helped by the failure of the council to deal effectively with the temporary closure of Minster View, which has so far led to a large overspend.”

The authority’s finance committee will review the budget when it meets on November 22.