A drive to improve outcomes for young people and families led to the creation of the Council’s ‘Closer to Home’ strategy.

At its core the strategy aims to refresh work practices to help strengthen families so that more children can remain safely at home – or within their own community - rather than be placed in a residential home or school often miles away.

A number of interconnected projects sit within the strategy, all of which have been designed to help create brighter futures for children while also saving a projected £3.4m by 2023/24.

The current work streams include:

Family Support Services

By working in partnership with families and third sector partners, the project aims to ensure the support provided to local children and their families better meets their needs.

To do this, a review of existing family support provision is currently underway. This has already resulted in the creation of a joint Education and Social Work Family Support team. The team is based in one location with a new management structure.

A wider review of all commissioned services is also being undertaken with third sector partners and families to design an effective service.   

Foster Care Recruitment

By working with an external marketing agency that has experience working within the foster care sector, the Adoption & Foster Care Team aim to attract an additional 30 foster carers over the next five years. Work is already underway on an online marketing campaign to promote registering as a foster carer with Falkirk Council, which includes the promotion of a fostering and adoption event taking place on April 17th.

Supported Accommodation Options for Care Leavers

The aim of the project is to create accommodation that is specifically designed to support young adults as they transition from care into independent living. Two locations have been identified and will open in July as suitable housing that will offer young adults aged 16 to 26-years-of-age, who opt to receive aftercare, with the support they need to build confidence and self-resilience.

Procuring for the Future

A dedicated Contracts & Procurement Officer has now started within Children & Families. Their role is to help create efficiencies and ensure the contracts awarded to third sector partners, like Barnardo’s and Aberlour, improve outcomes and have a positive impact on the families, children and young people who use their services.

Lesley James, Senior Service Manager, Social Work, and ‘Closer to Home’ Project Manager, said: “By adopting a more pragmatic approach we have already saved £30k with one major care provider. Our Procurement Officer will also be looking to collate all commissioned and contracted services, including the associated spend and performance monitoring information, in a resource directory. This will allow us to quickly see what is being spent and how effective it is as well as identify any service gaps and begin to plan in the longer term.”

Family first Approach – Preventative Spend

By offering financial support, the Council aims to empower families to make the right choices and alleviate stress in a bid to stop problems escalating to the point where a child may be at risk and taken into care.

Lesley said: “We have many examples of how preventative spend is helping families stay together and is providing a more stable environment for a child or young person to live.

“One example was a child in care who wanted to live with their grandparents, but it wasn’t financially possible for them to look after that young person. By working with them we identified certain costs that we could offer to cover each month - and provide a kinship payment - so that child could be cared for by immediate family.

“By taking an innovative approach and working with the family to identify what would help them overcome barriers to caring for the child, that child now lives in an environment where they feel safe and connected to their family. As a by-product, the Council is now saving money, paying significantly less for the child to be cared for by their immediate family compared to the cost of a residential placement.”

Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE)

There is a need to reduce the time it takes to secure a permanent family placement for children who need to be taken into care. This includes speeding up the process for adoption, fostering and kinship placement.

Having already identified areas where hold-ups currently occur, seven working groups have been established to help find new and better ways to improve timescales, following the Scottish Government’s model for improvement framework.

Best practice in Child Protection Systems

To ensure early intervention and prevention, and ultimately the safety and protection of a child, a process mapping and review exercise to update procedures, evaluate current systems, and strengthen links with other services and partner organisations is currently underway.