Government Grant for Fostering Better Outcomes:
A new approach to supporting children to 'step down' from residential care, supported by a £939,000 Government grant award from the Life Chances Fund.
Cheshire West Council is commissioning a new service to support children and young people who are in or on the edge of residential care to access high intensity foster care placements.
The Fostering Better Outcomes service will support six to eight children and young people per year who are in or on the edge of residential care to access 'high intensity' foster care placements with highly skilled carers and extensive support.
Currently there is a significant gap in the intensity of support and supervision between residential care and foster care which makes transitions, known as 'step down', challenging. These 'high intensity' placements are an intermediate step between residential care and 'mainstream' foster care and should allow children with complex needs to thrive in a family setting.
The Council is committed to ensuring that all children have the best start in life and to supporting children, wherever it is in their best interests, to live and flourish in a family setting.
Academic evidence, drawn from a range of sources including "The place of residential care in the English child welfare system"(Department for Education, 2015) demonstrates that, on average, when looking at a wide range of measures, children achieve better long-term outcomes in foster care compared to residential care.
This scheme, in providing an intermediary placement type between residential and 'mainstream' foster care, aims to help ensure that all the borough's children who have the appropriate strengths to live in a family are able to do so.
The development of this proposal began in summer 2016, when the Government announced the £80 million Life Chances Fund, which is intended to spur the development of a significant nationwide social investment market.
It offered to fund, on average, 20 per cent of the cost of services provided via a Social Impact Bond (SIB). This was considered a significant opportunity for Social Impact Bonds to improve outcomes for residents and deliver savings for the Council through avoiding unnecessary high cost placements.
Full Council approved the submission of a Full Application to the Life Chances Fund in March 2017 as part of budget setting. This was for 25 per cent of the cost of the SIB intensive fostering service (up to £939,000 based on outcomes achieved).
On 31 July 2017 the Council was notified that this bid was successful. Proposals to commission this service were brought to Cabinet on 13 September and were approved.
Social Impact Bonds:
A SIB is an outcome based contract in which social investors pay for an intervention to improve an outcome that is of social interest to a government/public sector commissioner.
There are currently approximately 20 SIBs operating in the United Kingdom, with a number of them supporting the delivery of interventions for Children's Services.
SIBs transfer the financial risk of outcome based preventative interventions from commissioners and providers to a social investor.
The commissioner is not required to pay for unsuccessful programmes as determined by the contract.
This model is fundamentally predicated on an 'invest to save' idea, where the savings significantly outweigh the investment needed.
Engagement with Children and Young People:
A focus group with the Children in Care Council was held before the submission of the full application to the Life Chances Fund, to ensure that we captured children and young people's views on the proposed service. When asked to rate the proposals on a one to 10 scale, the average score was 9.75. The project will continue to engage with children and young people; another focus group is in the process of being convened in autumn 2017.
Following a procurement process to select a provider, the service will start supporting children in June 2018. The service will support six children in its first year, and eight per year thereafter.