COUNCIL bosses are joining forces to bid for a share of a £500,000 Government funding pot.

Blackburn with Darwen Council's children’s services is working with counterparts in Lancashire, Blackpool and Cumbria, as well as Child Action North West and Antser to submit two bids for Department for Education funding to carry out a feasibility the study to address some of the difficulties faced by local authorities in providing enough placements for looked after children and in maintaining positive placement stability.

Director of children's service in Blackburn with Darwen, Jayne Ivory, said: "Last year two reports were published on the UK fostering system, the independent review of f care in England and the Education Select Committee’s fostering report.

"A key message from both reports and a priority for the National Stability Forum is the need to increase stability for children in care.

"Placement sufficiency and placement choice are critical to effective placement matching. Foster carer recruitment and the need to develop foster carer skills are central concerns.

"The reports also identified that work is needed on strategic commissioning and sufficiency planning, with a focus on longer term supply of provision tailored to meet the needs of children in each area.

"The DfE has made a fund of £500,000 available for local authorities to bid into for the development of feasibility studies designed to explore innovative ways of improving commissioning and sufficiency planning to increase stability and permanence for looked after children.

"Bids are invited from local or combined authorities, either alone or as part of a consortia, working with providers or partner organisations."

It is hoped the study will help bring about improved and more efficient commissioning practice and greater placement choice, as well as more carers able to provide more complex fostering placements.

As a result, more children would be placed locally in placement that meets their needs and there would be improved access to services as well as increased stability due to improved choice of placement.Ms Ivory added: "The seed funding secured will fund a consultant for a period of 4 months to carry out the feasibility study.

"A working group, including representatives from the four local authorities and indepdent fostering agencies (IFAs), will drive this work.

The feasibility study will consider current and predicted demand, existing processes and promising practice.

"It will examine ways that LAs and IFAs can work more collaboratively and will consider the benefits and barriers of different ways of working.

"Learning from the study will be cascaded to other IFAs through a specific report and shared learning event and will inform future commissioning arrangements and joint working