Members have given their backing to an investment of more than £2.3m towards supporting vulnerable young people and families in the Highlands.
The investment was agreed as part of the annual budget process.
The investment comes in recognition of the vital role undertaken by foster carers, kinship carers and adoptive parents and will invest £1.306m in increasing allowances and enhancing support and training to increase the number of Highland-based carers and provide greater support to existing carers.
This investment is in addition to the increased fees agreed a number of years ago, and previous investment made in supporting ‘Home to Highland’, which is a team focused on the planning and support required to appropriately bring back those children who had been placed out with the Highlands.
The remainder of the investment, £1 million, has been made to support the newly-developed Families First strategy, which aims to provide early and preventative help, alongside intensive support targeted for those families whose children and young people are on the cusp of care.
The strategy’s vision is summarised simply as:
“To safely ensure that children and young people remain with their families and within their Highland communities.”
Chair of the Health, Social Care & Wellbeing Committee, Councillor David Fraser, commented:
“Addressing the financial support to carers will make a tangible difference in the lives of many children in Highland.
“It will enable ‘ordinary’ people to continue to do extraordinary things by loving, nurturing and caring for other peoples’ children, within a healthy system of family care in kinship, fostering and adoption, matched to the needs of the individual child.”
Councillor Fraser added:
“By devoting additional resources to key areas of vulnerability, it will be possible to reduce the immediate financial burden to the Council of using expensive private agencies whilst also developing life skills and resilience to prevent escalation to expensive interventions in later life.
“Consequently, not only are we doing the right thing, we are investing in prevention to deliver a reduction in costs over the short to medium term.”
Leader of the Council, Councillor Raymond Bremner, said:
“The Investment Strategy will protect the £1m investment in the Families First approach to develop approaches that aim to safely maintain as many children and young people at home within their families and their local Highland communities.”
“The significant benefits which can come about through early intervention are widely recognised – such an approach often enables us to keep children within the immediate family home where it is possible and safe to do so.
“Furthermore, we can also limit the use of conventional residential placements, which are typically high-cost, and sometimes lead to a child having to be cared for out-of-area.”
Convener, Councillor Bill Lobban, concluded:
“We recognise that individuals are currently facing tighter household budgets and tough financial decisions, however, it is hoped that last week’s investment, which supports a boost in the financial allowances made available to carers, will go some way to encouraging more Highland residents to step forward and express an interest in undertaking this vital role.
“Having enough foster and adoptive carers within our communities ultimately enables more children and young people to remain within the Highlands.”
The Council has a dedicated webpage for those who are interested in finding out more: www.highland.gov.uk/fosteringandadoption