AN increase in the number of parents who kick their children out of home as soon as they turn 16 is causing a spike in youngsters entering the care system in Flintshire, it’s been revealed.
A senior social services figure in the county has lifted the lid on a recent upsurge in people approaching the local authority claiming they can no longer look after their children once they have left school.
As well as the upturn in the level of children in care, it has contributed to Flintshire Council spending around £9 million last year on out of county placements.
A report presented to councillors on Thursday shows the average cost of placing children with external foster carers is almost double that of local authority placements at £43,000 a year.
Meanwhile, it was also disclosed that putting youngsters into residential care is costing the council as much as £600,000 a year in some individual cases.
Craig MacLeod, senior manager children and workforce, said it was now working with healthcare providers and other organisations to try and prevent family breakdowns.
He said: “What we’re seeing is an increasing number of children aged 16 plus where parents come to us and say they can’t cope any more.
“That sounds really crude, but sometimes those are the conservations and I think as a council we need to really look at what alternative offers we give to those children.
“Putting them straight into the care system, often straight into residential care, in an environment that is just alien to them, I sometimes question is that the best thing?
“We’re also in discussions with health to look at how we get multi-disciplinary teams together to where a placement, that could be family, fostering or residential, looks like it might break down.
“That team would go in to do intensive assessment so we understand that family, that child, their needs and what support we can put in to keep them in that placement.
“It’s to diffuse the situation so we’re not in crisis all the time.”
The council has recently approved a 50 per cent reduction in council tax for foster carers as part of a bid to encourage more people in Flintshire to provide a stable home for children.
Members of the authority’s social and health care scrutiny committee were also told of further steps to improve the number of local foster carers in a bid to reduce the number of children looked after outside county boundaries.
Ewloe councillor Dave Mackie said he felt part of the problem could be down to youngsters who leave the education system early, placing strain on parents and carers.
He said: “I know for a fact from my fostering side of things that where a young person stops being part of education, not only have you got a young person on their own all day long, but you’ve got foster carers under a great deal more pressure.
“Clearly those foster carers won’t have somebody else looking after the child – they’re responsible all the time.
“I really feel that puts extra strain on absolutely everybody and there have been quite a number of breakdowns recently which have been for that reason.
“I really feel we should be looking to have a scheme that concentrates on these young people.
“If they won’t take education, we need something for them to do that occupies them and gives them hope for the future
At the end of the meeting, councillors voted to support the steps being taken to provide more in-house foster care placements.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).