COUNTY COLUMN: Peter Metcalfe on fostering and child support

I WAS touched by the letter written by 16-year-old Katie Wright in the Herald on May 22. She unselfishly highlights her foster parents and praises them for being ‘friendly, kind, nice, reliable and responsible’.

I’m very pleased for Katie that she has such dedicated carers. By a coincidence, West Sussex County Council has been promoting Foster Care Fortnight, as there is still a huge need for more foster parents - we have a shortage of approximately 950 foster families. To find more information and see a video, visit West Sussex fostering

Also, while researching for this column and talking about our young children, I thought you may like to know about the early support information service. This is available as soon as a child is identified as needing additional help.

When a child has complex health needs or multiple disabilities, there may be a large number of people providing support and services for them.

Early support brings together parents, carers and practitioners from health, education, social care and the voluntary sector, to coordinate services as early as possible through a key-working approach, make sure everyone involved is aware of the overall needs of the child and the family, and try to reduce the need for parents or carers to explain their situation more than once.

It can support families from pre-birth to the end of reception year, and the baby or child who has complex or multiple needs relating to their learning or physical development that are persistent and ongoing; has a West Sussex County Council boundary home address (including looked-after children); and is receiving, is eligible for, or is about to receive, multi-agency input from two or more targeted services, in addition to a paediatrician, the health visiting geam or GP.

For further information and to make a referral for early support, email

Just a reminder that Big Society grants are still available for 2014-15, the next deadline is August 14.

To make a successful bid for an award of £2,000 to £25,000, the initiative must be significant to the local community or West Sussex as a whole, be substantial and of lasting benefit, and must be supported by your county councillor.

The next half of the £250,000 will be available in the autumn.