IMPLEMENTING the efficient business practices of Japanese firm Toyota to the Fostering Services team at Solihull may seem incongruous but doing just that has saved cash-strapped Solihull Council millions of pounds.
The council has looked to the Japanese car industry to streamline the department, meaning the number of foster carers making the grade has gone from seven a year to 13.
Stuart Fisher of Lean Transformation Consulting, based in Knowle, was behind the pilot scheme.
He said: “It was difficult because the culture is very different - dealing with social workers in the public sector rather than in technology or the private sector.
“We very much focused on services and we were bringing in a new set of principles to inspire the team and then develop their own solutions.
“Taking out all the wasteful practices such as checking things two or three times meant improving quality. Working smarter not harder means production goes up and so you can meet the needs of the community.”
Mike Gregory is the Fostering Team Manager at Solihull Council. He said: “We were struggling to recruit foster carers across Solihull three or four years ago and Stuart and his team came in.
“We mapped out the process on the wall with post-its and so on and it was a lot of different things. We thought ‘why are we doing that there instead of earlier?’ so we slimmed down what we did.
“Previously it was taking over a year to get a foster carer through and it’s less than six months now. We still need more foster carers in Solihull.
“There are 400 looked after children under care orders in the borough with 300 in foster placements although a third of those are with external agencies.
“The figure is higher because of the amount of asylum seeking children.
To meet all their needs - language and religion - we do struggle but those carers that we have are very keen to do it.”
If you would like to be a foster carer call 0800 0730769.
Visit Stuart’s company on www.lt-consulting.com.