Southampton City Council has led on a joint project with 10 other local authorities in a bid to improve outcomes for children in care.
The council is heading up the Independent Fostering Agency, a partnership that has given the eleven authorities greater buying power when commissioning foster placements for children with particular needs. This will in turn help drive down costs leading to budget savings.
Currently the 11 councils have around 650 children placed with approximately 50 different independent fostering agencies at a total cost of £29m per year. Initial estimates of savings for the participating authorities range from 3 per cent to over 7 per cent, with Southampton City Council anticipating a saving of £160,000 - or 7.4 per cent - in the first year of the contract alone.
A total of 27 providers will offer independent fostering placements across the south central region under the new arrangements. High standards have been set for selected providers who were required to have an Ofsted rating of ‘good’ or better to be in the running to submit a tender.
Southampton City Council will be hosting an event on Wednesday 7 March for the providers who are joining under the new arrangements.
Councillor Jeremy Moulton, the council’s cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “Southampton has an outstanding in-house foster care service and a dedicated team of in-house foster carers, who make a real difference to the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable children and young people. But there are cases when we need to make use of the specialist placements offered by independent fostering agencies.
“These new arrangements will help to ensure that we are able to offer the children in our care the best chance of fulfilling their potential by ensuring a greater choice of local placements, greater placement stability, and robust contract management to maintain quality. Not only that, but the new arrangements will make real savings for council tax payers.
“I am proud that Southampton has been at the forefront of this exciting new way of working.”