Councils must “court and woo” schools into transferring some of their funding to social care provision, a leading children’s services director said today.
Maggie Atkinson told the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth that councils had an opportunity to use excess balances in school budgets to support social care – but had to work with schools to achieve this.
Atkinson, who is vice-president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, was referring to a government decision that councils should collect and redistribute 5% of school balances in 2008-9 on the basis that overall balances were too high.
The plan was announced by then education secretary Alan Johnson at the same conference last year following lobbying by children’s directors over their inability to use ring-fenced school funds for wider children’s provision, such as school nurses.
Under the plan, it would be up to councils and their local schools forums to decide how the money should be used.
Atkinson, who is director at Gateshead Council, said: “In my borough we have school balances of £12m and I’m having to reshape my social care services because I can’t afford them.”
She said that in early discussions with her forum she had argued that the money spent on non-educational provision could help schools. Atkinson cited providing social care support to help autistic children into mainstream education locally, avoiding expensive out-of-area placements.
But she told delegates: “You have to court and woo schools. You can’t tell them what to do. They are your partners not your staff.”