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With rising and changing demand and declining resources, funding children’s social services has now edged ahead of adult social care as the most pressing concern for local government finance heads in upper tier councils, according to findings in a new report from CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and Peopletoo.
But with demand outstripping budgets and no radical improvement in outcomes of children’s services in a decade, there needs to be a greater focus on effective use of public money.
The report, Changing Children’s Lives, not only outlines the financial pressures felt by councils working to meet children’s social care needs, but also sets out the context for why the number of children receiving social care has risen in recent years. By understanding the circumstances for the increased pressure on children’s social services budgets, councils will be in a better position to meet the challenges and improve outcomes.
Like many of the challenges facing the public sector, the rising and changing demands of children’s social care exist against a backdrop of austerity. But the findings are clear that urgent action is needed. While the funding shortfall is a major and growing issue, it is also clear that it is not just a case of improving the skills of service managers and frontline staff, there needs to be effective leadership and performance management at the corporate level.
Sean Nolan, Director of Local Government at CIPFA, said:
“It is important that the government recognises and understands why we have seen the surge in demand for children’s care. And that meeting the demand requires more than just providing pounds and people – it is a complex process that touches many different services.
“The current funding regime is geared predominantly towards addressing adult social pressures and even that is not sufficient. The reality is that funding for children’s services is reducing as demand is rising. This is not sustainable. As a result it is not surprising that this area has now edged ahead as the number one concern for CFOs in upper tier councils.”
Maggie Kenney, Chief Executive at Peopletoo, said:
“The continuing media coverage of the state of children’s services in England depicts a service on the edge of crisis, hit by increasing demand with limited local authority reserves to continue to fund growth.
“Already a system under severe financial pressure, the threat of the ‘death of a child’, a high profile case attracting unwanted national media, an inadequate Ofsted rating, are what keep many senior officers and members awake at night.
“Subsequently there is often a reluctance to drive further efficiency from children’s social care, which either places further strain on other council services to deliver essential savings in order to balance the books, or results in critical but non-statutory preventative and early help services being targeted. In our experience the impact of reducing effective early help can very quickly create demand on higher tier services which in the longer term increases spend.”
CIPFA is the professional body for people in public finance. It represents approximately 14,000 members who are public finance leaders and officials in the United Kingdom and overseas, specialising in high quality public financial management and governance for organisations in, and providing support to, government and public services.
As the world’s only professional accountancy body to specialise in public services, CIPFA’s portfolio of qualifications is the foundation for a career in public finance. It also champions high performance in public services, translating its experience and insight into clear advice and practical services.
About People Too
Peopletoo provides support to organisations across local government and health in the areas of adult social care, children’s services, environmental services and infrastructure. Our role is to help organisations ‘think differently’ to ensure that together, we arrive at the best solution to deal with not only the immediate short-term pressures, but to ensure sustainability for future generations. We create new and innovative solutions for sustainable and improved service delivery, ensuring value for money while using local demographics to support development of effective demand management.