All English councils have agreed to club together to extend funding for social worker posts in young offender institutions to ensure their continuation for at least another year.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services confirmed that councils would pick up the tab for 2009-10, while an “alternative solution” for permanent funding was found.
The posts in all 25 YOIs in England and Wales, created in 2005, were originally funded by the then Department for Education and Skills and the Youth Justice Board, but funding wrangles led to many social workers leaving their jobs.
DCSF passes responsibility to councils
The Department for Children, Schools and Families announced last January that responsibility for costs would be shifted to councils from April this year and pledged £800,000 in “transitional” funding for 2008-9.
The ADCS said this week that councils across England had agreed to share the costs of the existing 22 social workers in YOIs, estimated to reach about £880,000 for 2009-10. Without the decision, the scheme would have ceased in April after the interim funding came to an end.
John Harris, chair of the ADCS families, communities and young people policy committee, said: “It is really important to secure a social worker in every YOI because children in custody are often some of the most vulnerable in society. Many receive support from a social worker prior to entering the system and it seems bizarre that the support should stop when they need it most.”
He added: “In these times of financial restraint, I am pleased that local authorities are prepared to make this extra investment in the future of young people in their area. However, collective funding agreements can be quite bureaucratic and inefficient, so we are looking for another solution for the next financial year.”
He added that he hoped that funding associated with the Youth Crime Action Plan, published last year, would help to put the scheme on a permanent footing.
Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers was among those who have backed the retention of the posts and previously called for the funding uncertainty to be resolved. Last October, Jacqui Knight, a social worker at Brinsford YOI in Staffordshire, was awarded the annual Social Worker of the Year award.