Essex to spend extra £37m to improve failing childcare

ESSEX County Council plans to spend an extra £37million on children in care and improving its failing children’s service.

The service designed to safeguard the county’s most vulnerable children has twice been described as “inadequate” by Ofsted.

Improvements have been made and the council is proposing to spend the extra £37million on the service in 2011/12.

A report, due to be presented to county council tomorrow, says: “While improvements have been made in our safeguarding services, we still have further to go.”

Essex has about 1,550 children in care, compared with about 1,350 in December 2009.

Every child in care costs an average of £60,000 a year.

Forty social workers have completed the Newly Qualified Social Worker programme with Essex County Council, designed to support new social workers in their first year of practice.

Lucy Hopkins, who completed the programme, said: “It allowed me to reflect further on the challenging issues that arise within my case load.

“I found the task of completing assignments enabled me to consolidate my learning and practice, leading to a further understanding between how social work theory and research relates to my specific cases.”

Sarah Candy, councillor responsible for children’s services, said: “The programme helps us ensure our social workers are not only of a high quality, but they are also correctly supported in their role.”

Last year, the council spent almost £145million on children’s services.