Manchester City Council's Executive today agreed to pilot a brand new scheme to improve outcomes for looked after children and young people whilst saving the Council up to £4.7m over eight years.
The new scheme will see a small number of carefully selected looked after children and young people with challenging behaviour moved from their current residential homes to live with foster carers.
The benefits of living as part of a family with foster carers are considered by childcare experts to far outweigh those of living in a residential children's homes for some children and evidence also shows that children who live in foster care generally tend to achieve much better outcomes than those living in residential care.
The pilot scheme, The Multi-systemic Treatment Foster Care project - involving eight children and young people initially - would work by moving these young people from their current residential placement to live with a foster carer. Whilst there, the young person would also receive individual help from a therapist, a skills coach and an education worker to improve their challenging behaviour.
Each specially trained foster family would work with their child for between six and twelve months, during which time the foster carers themselves would also receive 24 hour support designed to ensure that they have all the tools and support mechanisms they need to provide the very best help and support to the child or young person in their care.
In the foster placement it is expected the children will experience improved educational, social and emotional wellbeing. At the end of the foster placement the young person would then be moved on to a longer term foster placement with the hope that the therapy and rehabilitation they have received during the previous few months before will ensure a successful placement for them and better outcomes than if they had stayed in residential care.
Jenny Andrews, Deputy Director, Children's Services, Manchester City Council, said: "All of the evidence suggests that children who live with foster carers do better all round than children who live in residential care.
"We therefore believe that if we can move some of our most troubled young people out of residential care and into foster care where they will receive intensive one-to-one support, then this will provide them with the right family setting and the right kind of support to overcome their complex behaviours.
"In the second year of the scheme it is proposed to increase the number of young people benefitting from the scheme to 16 with a view to involving a total of 80 children over a five year period.
Funding for the pilot scheme will be provided through a new form of public investment known as the Social Impact Bond. The Council will enter into a partnership with an ethical investor who will be contracted by the Council to both underwrite the scheme and provide the carefully vetted service itself on behalf of the Council. This third party investment, together with savings that arise as a direct result of the intervention will pay for the roll out of the scheme in the future.
Councillor Afzal Khan, Executive Member Children's Services, Manchester City Council, said: "We are determined to ensure that every young person who comes into our care reaches their full potential and it's clear that some of our more troubled young people need more help to do that.
"In the long run, the new pilot scheme, will improve outcomes for children and young people in the city as well as saving us money."
At the end of January 2012 there were 1,324 looked after young children in Manchester, with 188 of them living in residential care. The Council is hoping that if this pilot scheme is successful it could provide a model for further development in the future in order to improved outcomes for more young people in the city.