Social services departments are facing their toughest financial
year in over a decade, the president of the Association of
Directors of Social Services has warned.
Pressures generated by the reform of children’s services,
the Gershon efficiency review and increasing numbers of
looked-after children have created “grave uncertainties” over
budgets, said Andrew Cozens.
He added: “All the signs from our members, and the mixed signals
we are receiving from central government, suggest that the coming
budget round, leading to decisions about the council tax next
spring, is likely to be a tough one for social care.”
Accurate figures on the predicted cost of various services is
not available because the ADSS was forced to abandon plans to
publish its annual budget survey after it ran into a number of
problems that included some councils counting Supporting People
funding while others did not.
But trends identified by its research show that local
authorities across England are dealing with rising numbers of
looked-after children, as a consequence of Lord Laming’s
inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié.
Leicester Council has seen its number of looked-after children
increase from 460 to 530 since Laming’s report in January
Bradford Council is building five new children’s homes to
accommodate growing numbers of children. In a single weekend it
took 14 children into care and was spending £10m a year on
placing children in foster care outside the authority.
Uncertainties over how local authorities will meet the costs of
people who have preserved rights once changes in the way it is
calculated are also causing worries. At the same time concerns over
the savings recommended by the Gershon review are dogging councils
because the Department of Health has committed to an efficiency
drive of 2.5 per cent, which amounts to £650m on commissioning
of adult services.
“These worries and the greater inflexibility being imposed by
the separating out of children’s and adult services budgets
are all contributing to grave uncertainties within social
services,” said Cozens.