Children in care with complex needs in the Western Trust area are being sent to other areas due to a lack of support locally, it has been confirmed.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust has launched a review of its services and is currently trying to develop a Specialist Foster Care scheme to prevent more children from having to leave their own communities.
Trust bosses have now confirmed to the Journal that 13 children with specialist, complex care needs have had to be sent on placements to other areas over the 18 months. Of these children, seven have since returned and are again being looked after by the Western Trust.
The matter was touched on in the Western Trust’s ‘Savings Plan for 2015-16’, which outlines how the health body plans to save £750,000 while re-designing its ‘Looked After Children and Family Support Services’ model “to repatriate and maintain children with complex care needs in their local community”.
The Savings Plan states: “The Trust recognises children should be cared for in their communities of origin and is therefore examining the entire looked after and family support resource to ensure that the necessary services are targeted and all children are looked after within Trust boundaries and within Trust resources.”
The report states that over the past 12 to 18 months “the number of children placed outside the Trust area has increased significantly due to complexity of need and unavailability of wraparound intensive support”.
When questioned on what measures were being taken in this area, a spokesperson for the Western Trust confirmed to the Journal this week: “The Trust is currently developing a Specialist Foster Care scheme which is targeting children presenting with complex emotional need.
“This scheme will strive to prevent children being placed out of Trust and to maintain them within their communities of origin.”
Overall, as of this week there are 522 children being looked after in care in Derry and across the wider Trust area.
Trust bosses said they are currently taking forward a new ‘Family Support Strategy’ which aims to engage vulnerable local families early to prevent breakdown.
The Trust spokesperson said: “This strategy will involve realigning the family Support Hubs, Family Centres and Community Service providers with whom the Trust has a contractual relationship.
“This will provide support along the different stages of family need to promote family stability,” she added.