Further to the meeting of the Board held on 17 September 2013 the Deputy Director of Safeguarding and Specialist Services presented a report which outlined measures being pursued to deal with predicted budget pressures and to provide information on budget provision.
The Board was advised that in overall terms, Wellbeing Care and Learning had developed a strategy to manage costs as a short to medium term measure but the development of effective early help for children and families was seen as the way forward in the longer term.
From the outset it was recognised that demand and growth were incredibly complex issues and particularly difficult to predict. It was confirmed, however, that the Department had undertaken a detailed analysis of trends over an eight year period and projected such figures forward to establish a position until 2016/2017. Such a model illustrated that across both Childrens and Adults Services, the cost of growth to 2016/2017 would be around £16 million of which £9.5 million had been identified for Childrens Services.
Members attention was drawn to key factors which would impact on growth and demand in the future which included increase in 0-19 population by 1% to 36,650; high survival rates of children born with complex needs; high level of low birth weight babies; welfare reforms; economic situation; and national impact of Serious Case Review findings.
In terms of the measures being pursued it was acknowledged that the impact of the Early Help Strategy had yet to make significant impact on the numbers of looked after children although there were clear signs that the strategy was becoming embedded with practice across all agencies in Middlesbrough.
The Deputy Director of Safeguarding and Specialist Services reaffirmed the action being taken as outlined in the report submitted which included:-
Increasing in-house Fostering Services with an impending further promotional campaign which would include TV advertising;
A review and challenge of the cost of external placements;
Continuing negotiations with Ofsted about increasing capacity in three Five Rivers Childrens Homes;
New contracting arrangements with Advanced Childcare Ltd for four dedicated residential beds;
Impact of work undertaken by the Youth Team currently being evaluated;
The pilot Emergency Support scheme had demonstrated the benefits of providing alternative strategies to taking children into care.
In terms of the budget a number of assumptions had been applied, one being demand led pressures for children for 2013/2014; £1 million allocated for demand; although budget monitoring indicated increased demand led pressures for 2013/2014. The current Medium Term Financial Plan made provision for the demand that had been identified of £9.5 million up to 2016/2017.
In response to clarification sought from Members an indication was given of some of the challenges in relation to Independent Fostering Agencies and information provided on current monitoring arrangemnts. Reference was also made to the challenges arising from an increasing number of larger families with complex needs.
Clarification was provided regarding the number of social workers and challenges relating to the manageability of current caseloads.
The Deputy Director of Safeguarding and Specialist Services reaffirmed the importance of the Early Intervention Strategy and involvement of all agencies, including schools, to ensure that children and their families received timely interventions from confident, appropriately skilled services.
ORDERED that the Deputy Director, Safeguarding and Specialist Services be thanked for the information provided which was noted.