A Barnsley company, which collects information about school attendance of looked after children, has doubled its turnover and staffing in the past five years.
Cudworth-based Welfare Call has increased turnover to £1.9 million since 2010, and taken on ten call centre operators and one IT developer in the past four months alone, taking its total number of staff to 80.
The company supplies data to nearly 70 per cent of all local authorities across England and Wales, with more coming on line this year.
It is about to take on three new administration apprentices and one IT apprentice in the next few weeks.
Welfare Call is the biggest player in its specialist service sector, making more than 19,000 calls to 16,000 schools across the UK every day, to record the attendance of 23,500 looked after children.
Looked after children are children who have become the responsibility of the local authority. This can happen voluntarily, because parents are struggling to cope, or through an intervention by children’s services because a child is at risk of significant harm.
Logistics manager, Chris Armitage, said: “The information we collect not only helps increase attendance at school, by flagging up potential problems, but offers children better opportunities to be educated.
“It’s also all about keeping children safe which, as we know in these times, is more important than ever.”
Welfare Call, which was set up in 2002 by Stuart and Julie Henderson, relocated to larger premises at Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC) in Cudworth seven years ago, after outgrowing its offices in Summer Lane, Barnsley.
BBIC has continued to support the company by assisting with the redesign of its website through the Enterprising Barnsley programme, which is funded by Barnsley Council.
The company offers a range of monitoring services to schools, local authorities and social services, as part of their support for children, including those with special educational needs, young offenders, traveller children, and children at risk of being neglected, abused or sexually exploited.
“Monitoring is at the heart of our business,” said Chris. “Our call centre operators form a relationship with the schools and really ensure they are getting accurate information about the children in their care.
“We have an excellent relationship with local authorities because of our one to one calling regime. This allows us to both maintain and increase our business.”
In addition the company devises specialist reporting systems which it shares with all its local authorities. This includes electronic Personal Education Plans (ePEPs), which are mandatory for all looked after children, that can be accessed by designated teachers and social workers. The company also produces Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) which have replaced the old ‘statement of special needs’ system of assessing children.
Welfare Call has a separate company which also monitors young people over the age of 16. It provides data on what happens beyond the school environment and the information is used by the Department of Education to improve training.
The company is about to become a premier partner with Capita One, a leading supplier of information systems to children and families services. This will involve expanding its work in the area of ePEPS and EHCPS which it currently supplies to 12 local authorities.
Kevin Steel, Enterprising Barnsley’s business development manager at BBIC said: “The team at Welfare Call have made impressive progress in developing their business across the UK. They are a major employer in this part of Barnsley and, because they offer flexible working hours and school holidays, they meet the needs of a lot of local people.”