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Agenda item

Children's Services Financial Monitoring and Review 2018/19

Cabinet Portfolio:                 Children’s Services and Neighbourhood Working

Strategic Directorate:           Children and Young People’s Services

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a briefing note submitted on behalf of the Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services detailing the significant financial pressures on placement budgets and in the delivery of key social work services due to the number of children in the care system. It was reported that the budget pressure had been increasing month on month due to a steady rise in looked after children numbers, but numbers and the budget had stabilised linked to the various projects instigated by the directorate. At the end of February the projected overspend was £15.7m which in the main reflected pressures on staffing, transport and placement budgets.

 

Members queried the level of consultancy spend incurred within the directorate. In response, the Strategic Director confirmed that there were no consultants employed in the directorate, however commissioning of third sector organisations was undertaken. Admiration was expressed at how the directorate had reduced the level of agency spend and Members sought to understand if there was a level which was anticipated to be adequate and financially sustainable and what role there would be for technology to release further efficiencies. In response, the Strategic Director indicated that the budget assumed that there would be small, essential use of up to 15 agency staff posts per year. In doing so, this would ensure that caseload levels were at the right level and would maintain the authority’s position below the national average in respect of agency usage. Mobile technology was being explored to make the service more efficient and an example was given of social workers using tablets or smartphone technology to access the social work case management system when they were out on visits.

 

Members recognised that spend was being better accounted for and referred the two major overspends which arose from independent placements and external placements and sought assurance that work was underway to keep placements within the local economy rather than out of borough. In response, it was acknowledged that there were better approaches to recruiting and creating residential type provisions and options were presently being developed for consideration by Cabinet later in the year.

 

Assurances were sought that the authority was no longer losing foster carers in the first year to 18 months of service. In response, the Strategic Director confirmed that a lot of work had been done to ensure that the authority appointed the right foster carers and focusing on retention as well as recruitment. More detailed proposals would be submitted for Cabinet consideration in the summer, but there remained much to do in order to strengthen the approach and have a competitive offer. 

 

Reference was made to the report detailing major budget pressures in respect of transport and Members sought clarification as to the specifics of those pressures. In response, the Strategic Director confirmed that it principally related to the transport of looked after children to and from school, using whatever was the most appropriate form of transport and helping young people to become independent travellers.

 

 

 

 

Clarification was sought in respect of the funding gap arising from income expected from the Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group. In response, the Strategic Director explained that the income predicted was what the CCG might contribute to individual packages of care. Work was underway with the CCG to develop a much better understanding of which organisation would fund which part of an individual care package. It was noted that work would also take place to strengthen the transitions process to help mitigate pressures and reliance on the CCG.

 

Members queried whether any vacant social work posts were not being recruited to presently. In response, the Strategic Director confirmed that there were no posts being held vacant to mitigate budget pressures in respect of children’s social care.

 

Resolved:-

 

1.    That the update be noted.

 

Supporting documents: