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Recruitment of staff to begin for Children's Placement services

23rd January 2019

RECRUITMENT is to commence for a new hub in Highland to avoid children going to placements out with the Highland area.

The first hub for a new model of temporary residential provision and multi-agency assessment is in Fodderty in East Ross.

The unit has a Service Manager, and the employment of residential/outreach staff will now commence.

The 15 jobs have been on hold, as part of the Council controls on all vacancies, in order to manage the Council's in-year budget overspend. Approval has now been given for these jobs to be advertised as a priority, as they are fundamental to enabling the council to reduce expensive and distant Out of Area placements.

The development of "Arach" (meaning nurture in Gaelic), a temporary residential and outreach service, will be the vital component of the programme for reducing the numbers of children coming into residential care. A prospective foster carer is being assessed to work from the hub and it is hoped they will be available from next month. It is planned to hold an open day and information evening to meet interested prospective employees.

Since last summer, 11 young people have been enabled to return to Highland and there are plans for at least 8 others to move in the first half of 2019. Whilst this has avoided significant out of area costs for these 11 cases, 9 new children have come into spot purchased placements during the same timeframe. In April 2018, there were 48 spot purchased placements and at Dec 20th there are 46. The complex nature of adverse childhood experiences that our young people have endured, means that careful planning and transition from one placement to another is necessary.

There is the continued risk (seen across the UK) that the number of children requiring to be looked after continues to increase which has significant cost implications. Spot purchased placements have an average cost of £230,000 per child per year for Highland Council.

A report summarising the progress against the agreed plan for the Placement Services Change Programme, which is designed to redirect resources to develop services locally in Highland for Looked After Children and to address their education outcomes, will be considered by Members at the Care and Learning and Housing Committee.

The Placement Programme already has properties being built for looked after children moving out of residential care and this will be increased into the future to accommodate Care Experienced Young People moving into their own tenancies.

Vice Chair of the Care Learning and Housing Committee, Cllr Linda Munro said: "The decision to release these posts will enable the new unit in East Ross to open very soon. Investing in residential/outreach jobs locally will benefit our looked after children and young people in many ways, and minimise the amount of disruption in their lives as much as possible. The spending on these posts will also enable significant savings to be made in costly out of area placements, which are often not the best option for our children as they are placed so far from their home, school and friends, often for years at a time."

The vacancy control measures remain in place and every vacancy continues to be considered on a case by case basis to ensure the in-year overspend is managed as a range of measures designed to endeavour to balance the Council's budget by year-end.


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