Children’s outcomes ‘compromised’ as commissioners focus on balancing budgets

Children's Services Taskforce has called for a national framework for commissioners after finding many are conflicted

Photo: REX/Voisin/Phanie (posed by models)

Commissioning teams often feel conflicted when trying to balance their annual budgets or meet long-term goals for children, the Children’s Services Taskforce has found.

Published this week, Collaborating for better outcomes: the final report from the Children’s Services Taskforcerevealed that longer-term strategies in children’s services are often compromised by the need to balance budgets.

It stated: “With funding often dispersed between schools or clinical commissioning groups, and finance directors focused on minimising the impact of cuts to funding, well-intentioned strategies such as reducing the number of children in care and/or levels of need are compromised.”

The taskforce, which is a partnership from the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and the Children’s Services Development Group, has now called for a national framework for commissioners to ensure services meet children’s long-term needs.

“Rather than inhibit flexibility, a comprehensive framework would facilitate decision-making and performance management,” it argued.

The report explained that a framework would be tailored to each young person and would enable commissioners to benchmark successful providers and get individual children access to the best services they need.

The taskforce also believes strong leadership from directors of children’s services and council leaders – bringing on board social workers, commissioners and council staff – is essential for driving innovation in services.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said the report was born out of a “mutual recognition that, as austerity continues, we need a new mind-set for commissioning to deliver the improved outcomes that these vulnerable children need to lead fulfilling lives”.

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