£2.5m Extra For Lancashire Fostering Service

AN extra £2.5million is set to be pumped into the fostering system across Lancashire as part of a bid to bounce back from 12 months ago when the service was judged to be ‘failing’.

Social services bosses want to increase allowances to would-be foster carers and curb the expensive placements currently paid by County Hall for children in its care.

Just 12 months ago the county council’s service was labelled ‘inadequate’ by the children’s services agency Ofsted, amid concerns about children being placed with unapproved carers and overcrowding in some foster homes.

But last September, in a follow-up visit by the watchdog, the department was given a ‘satisfactory’ rating and now councillors have launched an action plan to ensure the fostering service is deemed to be ‘excellent’ by 2010.

And one of the key issues is to reduce Lancashire’s increasing dependence on costly private fostering firms. Currently each placement with an independent fostering agency costs the council £45,000 per year – and there are around 300 such children looked after in this way.

In-house carers, even with a programme of enhancements, would still only cost around £13,150, for the authority.

The move, which would see foster carers paid the nationally-recommended minimum pay-ment standard, is set to cost £323,000 in the first year.

One-off bonus payments and enhancements are being suggested as part of the new package.

Richard Jones, executive director of Children and Young People’s Services, said: “The proposed action will enable us to attract prospective new foster carers to the county, while encouraging existing ones to remain with us.”