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5 August 2013, 11:57
£16.5 million is to be invested into children's services in Norfolk.
Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet has announced the package to support frontline services for children and young people. It will be partly targeted at recruiting extra social workers and school improvement staff, as well as releasing funding to school clusters to support pupils with special educational needs.
The main focus will be aimed at addressing the areas for improvement highlighted in Ofsted’s inspections of safeguarding services and services to support and challenge school improvement.
In February the report said the service in Norfolk were 'patchy and inconsistent'.
The investment will see:
• £2.7m of immediate one-off investment to employ an outside agency to provide 40 frontline social workers. These staff will be employed for six months.
• £2.3m of revenue funding from April 2014 (for two years) to recruit at least 40 permanent social workers – to pick up the work of the agency staff.
• £1.5m of funding to support school improvement. This will include the appointment of additional Intervention Officers and Improvement Advisers.
• £10m released from the Dedicated Schools Grant to support children with special educational needs. The majority of this will be passed directly to schools, via school clusters.
News of the extra investment comes as George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, set out his Administration's strategy for the future pledging to put people first and champion excellence in education.
Cllr Nobbs said: "Along with promoting jobs and better infrastructure, excellence in education is a key priority for my administration and the improvements we all seek won't be achieved without securing extra investment to support our schools and young people generally.
“Ofsted has clearly signalled we need to take decisive action in Children's Services. Despite the real cuts being imposed on the people of Norfolk through no fault of their own by central government, we simply must make extra resources available in this crucially important area."
The £2.7m will see Norfolk County Council procure an outside agency to provide five teams of social workers. These staff will begin work as soon as possible to help manage caseloads across the county. They will be in post for six months while a separate recruitment drive takes place to employ at least 40 permanent social workers.
James Joyce, Cabinet Member for Safeguarding Children, said: “Child protection is our absolute priority so we are recruiting more social work staff to help support the very many dedicated staff already working on the frontline.
“The recruitment process takes time but this cannot wait – every day in a child’s life counts. That is why we are bringing in an agency now, to provide staff in the interim.
“These social workers will work on the improvements that are so vital to Norfolk’s children and young people whilst we recruit permanent staff. They will also support families much earlier so that fewer children need to come into care.”
In addition to social work investment, Cabinet has also committed £1.5m to services to support school improvement.
This investment will help to target the areas identified for improvement in the recent inspection of the County Council’s services to support school improvement – including funding for an external review of the council’s strategy to support school improvement.
Mick Castle, Cabinet Member for Education and Schools at Norfolk County Council, said: “School support services were cut following the Big Conversation and this is something this administration is keen to address.
“Although responsibility for school improvement lies directly with schools, supporting and challenging schools to raise levels of achievement remains a key task for the County Council.
“I am pleased to be able to announce £1.5 million of targeted support for school improvement - with that new investment put in straight away to ensure that Norfolk schools will be able to show considerable progress against Ofsted measures by the time of our next inspection in 2014. This will mean that we can draw upon national expertise to drive forward improvements in Norfolk, as well as bringing in new Intervention Officers to work with schools that need the most support.”
Cabinet has also agreed to release £10m of funding from the schools’ grant, over the next five years, to support children with special educational needs (SEN). This contingency funding will be delegated to school clusters and pre-schools, nurseries and other early years providers to support children with additional needs. It will also help to support efforts to educate more children with SEN within Norfolk.
Early discussions have taken place with schools, via the Schools Forum and they have agreed that this would be a suitable use of the funding.