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Spiralling children's services costs

 
Created on 25/11/2021 @ 08:10
Money will be transferred from Powys County Council reserves funds to pay for the predicted spiralling costs of children’s social services.

Earlier this month the 2021/22 quarter two financial report revealed an alarming prediction that the Children’s Services budget would be over £1.8m above its £26m allocation.

At a cabinet meeting, councillors portfolio holder for children’s services, Cllr Rachel Powell said that a report identifying that extra money is needed “provides a more in-depth picture”  of the issues.

Head of children’s social services Jan Coles explained that her department were requesting the funds be available at the end of the year so that they can “remain within financial regulations and respond in the right way” to children and their families.

Chairman of the Health and Care scrutiny committee Cllr Amanda Jenner told the cabinet that in a confidential meeting with children’s service chiefs her committee had been briefed on the situation.

Cllr Jenner said:  “I can confirm the committee were informed of a small number of children with the most complex of needs.”

Cllr Jenner told cabinet that the children’s team had tried to find “suitable and affordable” placements for these children, but it had been “impossible.”

Cllr Jenner said: “In addition we were made aware that all local authorities are competing for the same type of placements and provision.

She explained that on a national scale – there aren’t enough places to cope with the demand.

Cllr Jenner said that councillors had been “shocked” by the case backgrounds and the levels of costs involved.

According to Cllr Jenner the scrutiny committee were also “surprised” that the health board were not helping pay for these mental health care costs.

Cllr Jenner added that she would be inviting representatives of Powys Teaching Health Board to a future committee meeting to discuss “collaborative working” and the mental health support that’s provided to children in the county.

“It’s unquestionable not to provide the support needed, it’s court endorsed and needed to keep some of our most vulnerable children safe,” said Cllr Jenner

Powys’ head of finance, Jane Thomas said: “It’s important to note that when a budget is set at the beginning of the year it is an estimate of where we expect things to be, but they do change.

“It’s important the council react to that to make sure it it’s managed at an overall level and deliver a balanced budget at the end of the year.”

“This report looks to address that – we will explore every funding stream available and if we have underspends elsewhere (in the council) we would use that funding.

“All of this will happen before we draw on reserves.”

Ms Thomas said if or when that money is released will be reviewed later in the financial year.

She added that the department needed to know of the money’s availability so that they can continue to delivering services for the rest of the financial year.

The decision was approved unanimously by cabinet and the funding transfers up to a maximum of £1.854 million from the Councils Budget Management Reserve, will be go to a full council meeting to be decided.

Following the meeting a spokesman for Powys Teaching Health Board said: “We continue to work with in partnership with PCC so that together, we ensure that children and young people in Powys receive care that is safe and effective.”

 

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service