Early intervention costs, Coughlan warns

A greater focus on preventive services for children will not save councils money, a children’s services director told the national social services conference.

John Coughlan, director of children’s services at Hampshire Council, said: “Early intervention costs. It’s not a cost-saving initiative.”

And he said funding pressures on children’s services were likely to increase rather than decrease, because the split of children’s and adults’ services meant the “comfort blanket” of taking money from adult services budgets would no longer be available.

Coughlan also expressed concern about the ability of inspectorates to properly assess changes in the “vast” new children’s services agenda.

He said the “complex organisational change” in children’s services was “well beyond most of our conception”, and that the capacity of inspectorates to deal with it had to be examined.

Coughlan also claimed more schools were signing up to the Every Child Matters agenda.

“I would like to scotch the notion that schools are not on side,” he said. “They don’t like excluding children, but they are faced with huge competing agendas and are often between rocks and hard places in working with difficult children.”

He said work was needed to make it “attractive to schools” to keep children in mainstream education.

And he also urged Ofsted to be stricter on inspecting schools on their performance against the five Every Child Matters outcomes.

David Behan, chief inspector at the Commission for Social Care Inspection, reiterated its position that the proposed new single children’s services inspectorate should have responsibility for health and youth justice, which it will not under government plans.

He said vulnerable children needed access to “high quality health and youth justice services”, so the inspectorate should also cover the full range.


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