THE number of ‘looked after’ children in South Tyneside continues to fall, according to the latest statistics.
In July this year there were 314 youngsters being cared for by the local authority – compared with 340 in November last year.
But statistically South Tyneside’s ‘looked after’ children rate remains higher than its Tyne and Wear neighbours with a rate of 103 per 10,000 – against a target of 99.3.
Seventy-seven children are placed with independent foster care providers (IFA).
A further 18 have been placed in residential establishments outside the borough, which have also reduced because of the council’s commitment to looking after children in South Tyneside whenever possible.
Tomorrow members of the council’s People Select Committee will learn of the progress made to safely reduce the number of ‘looked after’ children and young people in South Tyneside.
In a report to the committee, Helen Watson, the council’s corporate director of children, adults and families, said: “For those children and young people who are looked after, the local authority has a corporate parenting responsibility to ensure that their needs are met and they receive the same opportunities as any other child in South Tyneside.
“A number of children and young people need to become looked after by the local authority for a variety of reasons.”
In May of this year the council’s fostering service organised ‘Fostering Fortnight’. This included a banner on South Shields seafront and a recruitment stall in a town supermarket.
The campaign resulted in 20 initial enquiries, slightly higher than the normal number made each month.
‘Looked after’ children cost the borough an estimated £12m a year.
It costs between £40,000 and £50,000 to place a youngster with independent foster care providers.
That contrasts with in-house foster placements, which cost between £11,500 and £27,500, dependent on whether the carer is on a salary and on the age of the child.
The People Select Committee will meet at South Shields Town Hall from 10pm tomorrow.