New recovery fund announced to tackle harms facing vulnerable children

Children’s Minister announces £24 million regional fund to cover wide-ranging issues for children's social care and support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

12/07/21

New recovery fund announced to tackle harms facing vulnerable children

A new programme to tackle harms facing vulnerable children has been announced by Children’s Minister Vicky Ford MP.

Speaking at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual conference, Ford said the new fund will support projects tackling the issues facing the most vulnerable children in society in 2021-22. These include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) abuse, care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, preventing adolescents from being caught up in harms outside the home such as gangs and reducing the pressure on the system by reducing court backlogs or improving technology.

Working through England’s network of nine Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances (RIIAs), the Government says the investment will also provide funding to accelerate the roll-out more family hubs to provide early help, build on existing projects with a proven record of success and offer investment in recruiting, developing and retaining social work staff.

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said the impact of the pandemic on services, young people and the social care workforce has been “multi-faceted”, adding immediate pressures on top of longer-term systemic issues and challenges.

The fund will bring together funding previously allocated to three programmes: Partners in Practice, the Innovation Programme and Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances. The Department for Education (DfE) says the fund aims to build “firm foundations for future reform” through the ongoing Care and SEND Reviews.

The money will be distributed among the nine regions according plans drawn up by each RIIA and based on local priorities. Each region will be allocated funds worth between £2 and £3 million, including a flat rate of £50,000 for each region to help local authorities play their part in accommodating unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

It follows the announcement last month of changes to the National Transfer Scheme, with a voluntary regional rota to ensure these children have the support they need by being more fairly distributed around the country.

The Children’s Minister warned, however, that the National Transfer Scheme could be made compulsory if councils do not “get behind” the rota system.

“I really would encourage you to try and get behind this system. Please keep going because otherwise we’ll have to go for the mandation and I think that will further increase pressure on local authorities,” Ford told the conference.

“Sometimes local authorities say that these young people will not want to live in rural areas, or outside the big cities as reasons why some areas feel that they cannot step forward and play their part. I know that meeting these young people’s needs can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding and there are many examples of local authorities doing excellent work in rising to this challenge.”

Last month, changes to the voluntary system were announced after Kent County Council warned that it may no longer be able to accept new Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children arrivals as its services reached “breaking point”. In response, the Home Office announced changes to the scheme to encourage more local authorities to “play their part”, however the scheme remained voluntary.
Read more: https://www.socialworktoday.co.uk/News/Councils-to-accept-migrant-children-on-a-rota-after-authority-reaches-%E2%80%98breaking-point%E2%80%99

The Minister also urged the children’s social care sector to complete a review of their safeguarding arrangements with schools, part of the Government’s response to Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse and harassment published last month.

It follows publication of strengthened safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges earlier this week, which strengthens sections of the guidance relating to peer-on-peer abuse, making clear that staff working in schools and post-16 settings should assume that even if no reports have been received, it could still be happening.

New data published by the NSPCC last week showed that the Report Abuse in Education helpline, launched on April 1 and extended until October as part of the response to the Ofsted Review, received 513 calls up to June 30, of which 97 were referred to external agencies such as the police and local authorities.

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