THE increasing demand on Children’s Services, will see costs rise, but council chiefs hope to stay within their budget councillors were told.
At a meeting of the Health and Care scrutiny committee on Wednesday May 26 questions were raised over the cost of the increase in demand.
Would the department which saw its budget double to deal with a critical inspection report by Care Inspectorate Wales back in October 2017, be able to live within its budget of just under £26.1 million?
Committee chairman, Cllr Amanda Jenner said: “We’ve spoken about the need of additional resources, with those envisaged, has it been planned or is there a knock-on impact on the budget?”
Head of Children’s Services, Jan Coles, said: “We hadn’t planned for the additional demand and we haven’t planned for the resource that’s needed to respond to that.
“To come in on budget we hope we will be able to move resource around and continue to do some of the improvement work we planned.”
Ms Coles added that the department now had a better understanding of where the financial pressures on it came from – apart from the “curveball” covid had thrown it.
Ms Coles said: “We made a good case around what we think needs to be funded, what we need to do differently and where savings can be made.
“We’re in a good position to deliver the service within budget this year.”
Ms Coles added that they were in continued contact with the Welsh Government, providing weekly updates on demand so that national comparisons could be made.
This could also help Powys receive additional funding, explained Ms Coles.
Cllr James Gibson-Watt, said: “The budget level now is double what it was four years ago, what level is that budget going to have to get before we as councillors can be confident that we are allocating adequate money to the system?
He wondered whether it would be at this level for the foreseeable future.
Ms Coles said: “Because of the pandemic, there are lots of things we don’t know about, I’ve explained the huge surges in demand that come through, we can’t put people on waiting lists.
“If a child needs to come in to care, in they come, as we cannot turn around and say, we’re terribly sorry we’ve used up our allocation of resource.
“I think were still only just into having our new bits of the system in place.
“Our early help services is hugely successful, as is our intervention prevention service which is keeping lots of children with their families and out of care.”
She explained that these new systems were only starting to bed in and there were a lot of children who had been brought into the Children’s Service sphere before the changes had been made.
Ms Coles said: “We’re still carrying a lot of the legacy of when things were done badly.
“This is the level of funding we need now; we’ll know more when those children become adults and move on.”
Last autumn, The Improvement and Assurance Board which was set up in the aftermath of the inspections and reported to the Welsh Government on the state of both PCC’s Children’s and Adult Social Services and Education, came to an end as a “significant amount of progress” had been made to turn things around.
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