Agenda item

Looked After Children's Sufficiency Strategy Update

This agenda item will provide an update on the delivery of the new Looked After Children’s Sufficiency Strategy (2023-2027) over the past 12 months.


The Looked After Children’s Sufficiency Strategy (2023-2027) focuses on what the service know about children and young people, including their voices, and the information about local homes for children. The strategy also provides all the latest data trends, what the priorities are and the delivery plan to achieve these.





This agenda item provided an update on the delivery of the new Looked After Children’s Sufficiency Strategy 2023-2027, over the past year.


The Chair welcomed to the meeting Councillor Cusworth, the Cabinet Member for Childrens and Young Peoples Services, Helen Sweaton, Joint Assistant Director of Commissioning and Performance and Mark Cummins, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transformation Project Lead.


The Chair invited Councillor Cusworth and Helen Sweaton to introduce the report and the following was noted:

·       The Strategy set out how the local authority would fulfil its role as corporate parents and meet the statutory sufficiency duty, by proving good quality care, effective parenting, and support to children and young people, in and leaving care.

·       The Strategy was a high priority for the local authority and set out the principles applied when seeking to commission the provision of secure, safe, and appropriate accomodation and support to children in and leaving care over the next four years.

·       There were huge pressures nationally on local authorities to meet the required duty. The local authority was in a good place, in relation to provision of placement mix, ensuring it could meet everyone’s need.


The Chair invited Mark Cummins to lead on the presentation. The presentation gave an overview of the following content:

·       Strategy Overview and Priorities-

?   The Looked After Children’s Sufficiency Strategy 2023-2027, was approved at Cabinet in October 2022.

?   The Looked After Children Sufficiency Strategy was developed in line with the duty to provide or procure placements, for children looked after by the local authority. The duty of ‘sufficiency’ required local authorities and children’s trust partners, to ensure that there was a range of sufficient placements which could meet the needs of children and young people in care.

·       Key Priorities 2023 to 2027-

?   More young people would be able to be cared for safely in their families and communities.

?   Children and young people would have access to a range of homes with both internal and external options, that would meet their needs and improve their outcomes.

?   All services would take the Rotherham family approach, to ensure all Rotherham children and young people would be resilient, successful, and safe. This would be evidenced by quality assurance activity.

?   Children and young people would be able to access the support they need, when they need it by ensuring Health, Education and Care Services would share a joint understanding of the needs of children and young people in Rotherham and would use this to inform commissioning and service delivery.

?   Children and Young People, their families and carers would be able to access Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) assessments and intervention when needed.

?   Children, young people, families, and carers were benefiting from additional social value in Rotherham. An example was provided of more employment opportunities.

?   More children, young people and families benefited from additional support to improve outcomes and access employment.

·       A residential Case Study-

?   BB had resided in an external residential provision at distance from Rotherham, since 2021. BB was placed in a residential provision after several fostering moves. The residential provision offered care and education, the external placement cost at the time that BB left was £6436.00 per week.

?   BB’s progress had been monitored via various children in care panels over the duration of his placement, and agreement was in place to continue to support BB’s placement at a distance from Rotherham, due to concerns about the availability of an appropriate local education provision.

?   The latest review focused more on permanency, BB’s Social Worker provided an update on the progress that BB had made and a possible change in care planning, due to developments with family networks, which identified that it would be easier for BB to reside locally.

?   Through the Permanence Panel, it was agreed to explore the possibly of BB returning to Rotherham into one of the services in-house residential homes. Following several planning meetings, BB was suitably matched to a home.

?   Working collaboratively with education colleagues, the service was able to secure an in-house residential home for BB. This allowed attendance at a local education provision and brought BB back into the borough with the right support around BB.  This was done over an agreed transition period where BB was integral to planning and leading the change. This was a very positive outcome for BB and saved the Council more than £100k a year.

·       Short Breaks Innovation-

?   The project supplemented the services existing short break provision, by developing a short break hub and incorporating community-based care and support for children aged ten years old and upward, with complex Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

?   The short break offer was a maximum of twelve weeks and would combine an opportunity for overnight respite with an intensive behavioural offer. This would link the school, community, and home-based support, and would reduce the likelihood of care entry and placement in out- of- borough education placements.

?   Nine young people were supported this year and eight young people had started a new or sustained an existing education placement, with a sustainable short break in place.

?   Following a competitive application process, Rotherham were successful in receiving funding to expand the project between the period of 2024 to 2025. This would include an opportunity to develop solo overnight short break provision, improve access to community short break facilities and develop work with Personal Assistants.

·       Fostering Rotherham-

?   Fostering Rotherham was a collaboration of digital on-line marketing and place based foster carer recruitment, support, and retention of local foster carers.

?   Fostering Rotherham worked with local foster carer heroes, who offered up their homes and hearts to young people in and around the Borough. The service worked with over one hundred and twenty fostering families from across Rotherham and South Yorkshire and were aiming to improve the lives of local children and young people.

·       A Fostering Case Study-

?   Through the Fostering Rotherham recruitment process JW had recently transferred from and Independent Fostering Agency (IFA).

?   The foster carer was already caring for a Rotherham child when they applied to be part of the Fostering Rotherham family. The assessment and approval processes were completed in twelve weeks. As well as improving the support network for the foster carer and the child, it had also achieved significant savings for the Council.

?   The foster carer had been approved to care for two children. The foster carer also had a spare bedroom, therefore there was scope for further growth of this foster carer.

?   The child in the foster carers care had other siblings who were placed with in house foster carers, this meant that there were now better opportunities to promote sibling relationships and develop peer support between the different foster families. The child did not experience any disruption to their education.

·       Challenges-

?   Children’s home acquisitions remained challenging due to a variety of factors, including successful progress through planning, community engagement and timescales for implementation.

?   Recruitment for residential workforce remained extremely competitive.

?   Recruitment and retention of foster carers remained an ongoing challenge due to the competitive nature of the market.

?   Shortage of availability of externally commissioned placements across Fostering, Residential and sixteen plus remained a challenge.

·       Opportunities-

?   There was an opportunity for continued, improved awareness and local support for looked after children were opportunities in relation to developing new provision.

?   There was an opportunity for development of place-based marketing and recruitment, to complement the online presence.

?   There was an opportunity for an opportunity to continue to develop the short breaks provision to ensure a continuation to meeting needs locally.

?   There was an opportunity for continued promotion on what’s working well and sharing good new stories.


The Chair thanked the relevant officer for the presentation and invited questions, this led to the following points being raised during discussions:


·       The service was working towards increasing the percentage of children looked after in the local authority’s in-house provision. In comparison to other local authorities, the service as doing well in this area.

·       The number of children that must be looked after, that are children in care in general, had reduced from 514 (noted in the report) to 507. This number is significantly lower in comparison to last year.

·       The service was investing in family support to prevent family break downs for teenagers. In August 2022 there was eight teenagers where their relationships at home broke down during the school holidays, in summer 2023 this figure had reduced to zero by investigating in the Engage Service.

·       The Permanence Panels main priority was to agree the appropriate permanent arrangement for the child or young person. Eight weeks after a child becomes a child in care, the social worker and team manager would attend the Permanence Panel and assess a permanent plan. The Panel was chaired by the Assistant Director for Commissioning and performance.

·       There was a challenge in recruitment and retention of workers in residential homes, this was a national challenge and would continue to be monitored.

·       CAMHS would be presenting at the Health Select Commission on the 25th of January and all members would be invited to attend this meeting.

·       Work was on-going to ensure that all foster carers would know who their local councillors were. It was advised that the Community Leadership Fund could be used to support children in care, in situations where it was requested and appropriate to do so.

·       The short breaks innovation project was available for any children or young people with complex SEND needs. Social workers and Early Help workers identify potential children who could be eligible and refer them into the project. Eligibility for the project could change if the complexity of the child’s needs changed.

·       In relation to placement stability comparison (on the graph at 2.4), the service was working to improve this number. It was also noted that even a positive move, was a move.

·       Bridging payments were provided to foster carers between placements. Until recently the offer for independent fostering agencies (IFA’s) was different to the offer provided to in-house carers. Cabinet had now approved more flexibility for the service, to ensure that they could match the payments provided to IFAs to in-house carers also.

·       When the service was looking at acquisition of properties that could be utilised as residential homes, all options were assessed. Planning created challenges in relation to community engagement and additional parking places to support the change of usage to the building, this reduced potential suitable and available properties. The Planning Team would make the Commissioning Team aware when a planning application is approved for an in-house or private residential home provider, in future this information would be shared with elected members.




1)    That the Improving Lives Select Commission note the progress made against the delivery plan for the Looked After Children’s Sufficiency Strategy.

2)    That invitations to the Health Select Commission on the 25th January (CAMHS update) be circulated to members of the Commission.

3)    That the request for specific data in relation to children and young people who move on to alternative independent living arrangements and remain in contact with previous carers, be assessed.

4)    That the Commissioning Team notify Elected Members when a planning request is submitted by a private residential care home provider.

5)    That Appendix One, referenced in the body of the report, is circulated to members.


Supporting documents: