Indicators show spending anomalies at Welsh councils

Expenditure on social services varies widely between Welsh local
authorities, according to local authority performance indicators
published last week by the Audit Commission.

The indicators show that spending per head of the population
ranged from £158.95 in Pembrokeshire to £265.22 in
Merthyr Tydfil for 1999-2000.

They also reveal that numbers of looked-after children in Wales
rose last year. For every 1,000 children, an average 5.5 were in
local authority care in 1999-2000, compared with 4.9 the previous
year. The highest number was in Blaenau Gwent, where one child in
100 was looked after.

Eighty per cent of those looked after by the 22 Welsh local
authorities last year were in foster care. The number of children
who had three or more placements during the year fell from 7.6 per
cent in 1998-9 to 6.2 per cent.

Child protection cases fell from 3.6 children per 1,000 children
to 3.4. Of those, 86 per cent were reviewed on time. However, this
figure fell dramatically in Ceredigion and Vale of Glamorgan to
just 28.6 per cent and 34.8 per cent respectively.

Ninety per cent of children on the child protection register
were visited once every six weeks by their social worker. However,
Gwynedd failed to meet this criteria in almost two-thirds of its
child protection cases.

Inspections of children’s residential homes were generally
carried out on time with the notable exception of Powys, which
achieved just a 50 per cent inspection rate.

All 22 local authorities achieved a 100 per cent inspection rate
for inspections of residential homes for adults. Nine in 10 adults
in residential care were allocated a single room, and the same
proportion had been given a statement of their needs and told how
they would be met.

Chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social Services
in Wales Hugh Gardner acknowledged that inconsistencies between
areas were still a problem. He said this could be partly attributed
to the different approaches taken towards independent versus
in-house services, and to the polarisation of communities – some of
which were very disadvantaged – as a result of local government

“Nonetheless, it’s a serious question as to why Pembrokeshire is
spending so little and Merthyr Tydfil is spending so much,” Gardner
added. “The difference between them is almost £100 per head.
That’s a huge variation.”

Gardner predicted that the opportunity to compare local
authority performance and share good practice would “improve
dramatically” this year with the establishment within the next few
months of the all-Wales consortium support unit.

Funded by the National Assembly for Wales, the unit will support
collaboration and co-operation, facilitate information exchange,
and provide performance management advice.

For more information see website at

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