A couple of weeks ago I talked about having to tell all the staff in one of our services that they faced redundancy due to the unexpected early end to a contract we had with a local authority. Since then everyone has been working hard to keep the service going. The local authority concerned has said it is an effective and useful service. We have data to show we have saved the local authority double what our service costs by actively preventing children from being taken into care (the former DCSF worked out it costs on average a local authority £36,635 a year to look after one child in care). Last week we met senior Councillors and explained the decision to end the service makes no financial or moral sense and suggested they purchase it from us one family at a time. So far we have not had a reply to that suggestion.
We know that many of the other local authorities in the region do not have a similar service for families of children at risk whose parents misuse drugs or alcohol, have mental health problems or there is domestic violence. Nationally significant parental substance misuse is a fact in 49% of all child protection plans. So we think there is fair chance that other local authorities would be interested in purchasing our specialist service for some of these particularly worrying families. We have found the names and addresses of key people in all those local authorities and put together a pack of information for them. Those marketing packs will be posted tomorrow. Next we will be phoning all those people and arranging to meet them to explain how the service can help families they know at a realistic price.
At the same time our Board of Trustees has been asked to underwrite the cost of the service until the end of December to give it a chance to attract referrals paid for by other local authorities. It has been a very busy couple of weeks but we feel hopeful that this approach will work. If it works it could be a way of sustaining some of our other services too.