By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
FEWER children in care would have to be placed out of Kirklees if there were more foster carers in the borough.
Despite issues with recruiting carers – which remains a national problem – Kirklees continues to have a lower number of looked-after children aged 0-17 than its surrounding authorities with 63 per 10,000. The authority is also slightly under the national average.
Between February 2018 and January 2019 Kirklees’ number of looked after children fluctuated from 675 to 629.
Generally the figure hovered around 630, reducing from 637 in November to 629 in December, and rising by four to 633 in January.
In the eight months between July 2018 and February 2019 there was a slight increase in the number of children placed more than 20 miles outside of Kirklees district.
The ethnicity profile showed that the vast majority were white (73 per cent) followed by mixed race (15.5 per cent), Asian (7.3 per cent) and black (1.6 per cent).
The number of children placed outside Kirklees district dropped from 110 in July 2018 to 104 in February 2019.
Coun Lisa Holmes (Con, Liversedge and Gomersal) asked directly how many children were placed outside Kirklees because there was no place for them within the borough.
Reporting to the Children’s Scrutiny Panel at Huddersfield Town Hall Steve Comb, the council’s head of corporate parenting, said: “A broad answer to your question is if we had more foster carers and choice in the district then we would be able to reduce that number.”
But he said complex issues around keeping some siblings together meant investigating “kinship carers”, such as grandparents or other older relatives, who might live further afield.
“The key is trying to translate that into a special guardianship,” he added.
Panel chair Coun Cahal Burke (Lib Dem, Lindley) agreed that the issue of placing children outside Kirklees, and the cost incurred, required further investigation.
It costs the authority on average £605 a week to foster a child. The figure includes operational costs.
That compares with paying £780 a week paid to agency workers.