The following press release is due to be published in the influential Municipal Journal this week.
This again underlines the importance of true partnership working and progressive commissioning and represents another ‘pat on the back’ for everyone involved in the Cross Regional Project, especially encouraging are the comments from the CRP Partners (see below press release)
An innovative scheme providing homes for some of the most vulnerable children in the South East has been singled out for praise in a national report ordered by ex-Prime Minister David Cameron.
Set up by six neighbouring authorities,the Cross Regional Project was heralded as an example of “what can be achieved” by Sir Martin Narey’s newly-published independent review of children’s residential care in England.
The review, commissioned last year by Mr Cameron and ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, makes special mention of the partnership involving councils in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Herts, Milton Keynes, Bracknell Forest and Reading. It calculates the initiative for 11 to 18-year-olds is saving taxpayers across the six authorities £1.4m a year.
The scheme has operated under an eight-year, £25m contract with provider Keys Childcare. It boasts six local children’s homes looking after 20 young people, and a specialist school. Each council is allocated a portion of the placements and can ‘sell’ beds to each other where needed, ensuring maximum occupancy. Young people are also provided with specialist therapeutic services.
Sir Martin’s report, published last month [July], said councils in England were doing too little to achieve large savings in children’s residential care.
He acknowledged: “It is difficult for individual local authorities to commission residential care effectively, given the small numbers of children needing it in each authority area.”
But in a special tribute to the Cross Regional Project, Sir Martin added: “This project, coordinated by Buckinghamshire on behalf of six local authorities is an exception and shows what can be achieved.”
Before the scheme began, the councils were finding it difficult to meet local need.
Project lead Simon Brown, who is now head of Children’s Care Services at Buckinghamshire County Council, said: “We were sending children all over the country to services that didn’t appear to have good outcomes. Children were losing contact with friends and family, schools, doctors and mental health service professionals. All we were doing was containing them, not helping them move forward.”
Mr Brown said the scheme has been hugely successful. Of the 28 young people placed in the 12 months to March this year, 64% had a history of significant missing episodes. The same proportion had a history of violence or antisocial behaviour, 54% had an offending history and 29% had seriously self-harmed. All reduced or stopped these incidents after moving in, he said.
Sir Martin, former Head of Prison and Probation Services in England and Wales and ex-CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s, was commissioned to carry out the review last October by the then Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
Mr Cameron said at the time: “We need to make sure that our residential care homes are doing the best possible job they can.”
Nicky Morgan said last year: “It is our moral duty to create a care system where all children have access to high-quality care that meets their specific needs. I am confident that Sir Martin’s review will help make this ambition a reality.”
What the partners said:
Lin Hazell, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Buckinghamshire CC, said: “I am so impressed with the way this project has succeeded and has set a template for the rest of the country. Everyone involved in it, including our staff and our partner councils, should be very proud to be mentioned in this way in an official report to the Prime Minister.”
Oxfordshire CC’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Melinda Tilley said: “This has been a fantastic example of Local Authorities planning together to meet our combined needs and developing high quality and cost effective provision in our region. All the homes currently have a “good” rating from Ofsted and we have seven of our young people currently placed in this provision who are making solid progress. As commissioners we are actively involved in quality assuring that there is a high standard of care and each of the homes is close enough to ensure that we can plan to bring children back to Oxfordshire at the right time.”
Richard Roberts, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Hertfordshire CC, said: “The Cross Regional Project has helped us enormously in providing placements for children in good quality homes, which has become an increasing challenge. By working closely with other local authorities and Keys Childcare, we have been able to get a better understanding of what the homes offer and how they are able to meet individual needs. Our experience is that Keys is flexible in its approach and the project has helped us deliver better outcomes for vulnerable children.”
Gareth Barnard, executive member for children, young people and learning at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “We are proud to be involved in this scheme, it has enabled us to increase our local placements capacity and therefore the number of looked after children we are able to keep in the local area while keeping costs down, helping us to continue to provide a value for money service for residents.
“The project offers our looked after children a supportive environment with education provision, providing a stable long-term placement. It is a fantastic example of joint working between neighbouring authorities.”
Jan Gavin, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “This innovative scheme is not only proving to be a great benefit to the young people involved but also for the council taxpayer.
“It is important for children to be placed in good homes as close as possible to their friends and family and it’s pleasing that this partnership arrangement has been recognised for delivering on all fro
Zoe Nolan, Lead Member for Children and Families in Milton Keynes, said: “This project is partnership working at its best. It shows that by working together we can improve outcomes for young people, which of course is what we’re here for. I am very proud that MK has been part of it.”
Emma Beech, Contracts Director for Keys Childcare, said: “Keys Childcare is proud to be part of this ground-breaking project and to be delivering excellent therapeutic care and education and in turn positive outcomes for the children placed.”