Local authorities are facing a fourth successive year of reduced funding from central government and rising demand for care. As council leaders try to protect frontline service and balance budgets, Community Care picks out 12 areas where cost savings are being made in 2014-15. Plans are listed in order of the cash saving targeted (highest to lowest). All councils mentioned were given the chance to comment. Each local authority’s response, where available, is included below.
1. Reducing the cost of placements for looked-after-children
Nottinghamshire council plans to save £2.3m from the cost of looked-after-children placements by reducing the use of independent fostering agencies and privately-run residential placements.
Council leader Alan Rhodes told Community Care: “Savings around looked-after children placements involve reducing our reliance on independent fostering agencies and privately-run residential placements outside of the county by increasing the number of Council foster carers we recruit and retain, boosting the amount of Council fostering placements we have available.
“And as well as reviewing the cases of children currently in private out-of-county residential placements, we are also looking to minimise the number of children entering residential care where their needs can be met through a family placement.”
Brighton and Hove council aims to save £2.2m from the amount spent on agency placements for residential care, fostering and adoption. The savings programme will see 16.5 placements delivered at ‘lower cost’ and there will be an overall reduction of 45.75 placements. The council is investing in foster care recruitment to increase the number of in-house placements.
Derbyshire council plans to save £850,000 by cutting the use of agency placements for children and finding more “cost effective” children’s homes. East Riding is looking to save £504,000 by cutting the use of agency placements.
2. Cutting back voluntary sector funding
Barnet council plans to save £1.3m by recommissioning contracts with voluntary sector and other providers for services including early intervention and prevention, short breaks and domestic violence support.
A council report states: “These commissioning budgets fund a range of voluntary sector and other providers to offer a range of services for vulnerable children, young people and families. A reduction could reduce the range of provision available in Barnet. We will seek to recommission and reconfigure services to minimise the impact on service delivery as far as possible.”
3. Reviewing early years support
Bristol City Council plans to save £760,000 through a review of early years support and children’s centres. The move will see services “targeted on families with the greatest need”.
Nottinghamshire council is also targeting £1m in 2014/15 – and £4m over three years – through a review of its early years’ service.
“There are proposed budget savings of £4m over a three year period within the Council’s Early Years’ Service, but the recent move to select a consortium of partners to deliver high quality services across our network of children’s centres will help protect as many services as possible,” Nottinghamshire council leader Alan Rhodes said.
4. Decommissioning specialist support for children in care
Brent council plans to save £405,000 by decommissioning a mental health service that provides specialist support to looked-after-children. The service, which also provides targeted support to parents of children with learning disabilities and CAMHS consultation for foster carers and social workers, will be replaced with a cheaper “reduced” offering. A council report acknowledges the move risks looked-after-children facing longer waits for care. The council said it could not comment on the tender process at this stage.
5. Closing children’s homes
Knowsley council plans to save £365,000 through the potential closure of children’s residential homes and a further £300,000 through a reduction in children’s and family centre provision. The council said cuts to central government funding had forced it to make difficult decisions. “We have worked hard to protect social care services wherever possible,” a spokeswoman said.
6. Cutting back on early intervention
East Riding council plans to save £300,000 by making early intervention services “less universal”, a move that will include the deletion of a specialist substance social worker post. Dudley council plans to save £110,000 by releasing a vacant post and reducing the commissioned support for early intervention work in children’s mental health services.
7. Transfer social work cases to non-qualified staff
East Sussex council plans to save £297,000 through a remodelling of social work services that will see 230 cases transferred from qualified social workers to family key workers. The move will see “more risk” managed by non-qualified social work staff, a council report acknowledges.
“Risk assessments will need to be undertaken on which cases can be stepped down. More risk will need to be managed by non-social work qualified staff. Social workers may be required to move location/team,” the report states.
“The early help development programme is supporting managers and staff in early help services to develop skills and confidence to work with more complex and challenging children and young people and their families. The quality assurance framework will be used to ensure that these changes are managed safely.”
A rapid response team which has been successful in reducing admissions to residential care of looked-after-children over the age of 13 will also be disbanded with staff redeployed to other teams to save £120,000.
8. Reviewing social worker caseloads
Newcastle council plans to save £273,000 by reviewing the caseloads of its children’s social work teams and their management arrangements. The move will see up to seven full-time staff posts deleted. Community Care asked the local authority whether the review aimed to make savings by increasing the caseload per social worker or by stepping down cases to non-social work teams. The council declined to respond.
9. Reducing family support services
Cornwall council plans to save £100,000 by cutting its funding of a family intervention project. Bath and North East Somerset council plans to save £178,000 by reducing its spend on family support, child and adolescent mental health services and short breaks. A further £76,000 will be saved by redesigning family support services with reduced staffing capacity.
A Bath council spokesman said: “The savings in children’s social care equate to less than 2% of the overall children’s social care budget. We are maintaining our focus on supporting the most vulnerable adults, children and families in society to achieve their potential – this is reflected in the fact that fifty pence in every pound of Council Tax that we collect is spent on vulnerable people, young and old.”
10. Reducing safeguarding teams
Brighton and Hove council plans to save £62,000 from its safeguarding services. A council report states that the move could see Independent Reviewing Officer caseloads “exceed” recommended levels and “impact upon the ability to fully discharge statutory duties”. The council aims to mitigate against that by boosting its quality assurance capacity. East Riding council plans to save £79,000 from its staffing costs in safeguarding teams. This will include the deletion of a welfare rights officer post.
11. Reducing short-breaks for disabled children
Dudley council plans to save £100,000 by reducing the commissioning of short-breaks for disabled children.
12. Reducing advocacy support for children in care
East Riding council plans to save £30,000 through the deletion of a post in its participation and rights team that provides advocacy support for looked-after-children.