‘Unstable’ funding for children’s social care hitting services

Council leaders have warned that grant funding is becoming increasingly critical to maintaining services

Photo: Cultura/REX Shuttershock (posed by model)

Children’s services departments are becoming increasingly reliant on “unstable” funding sources as the numbers with protected budgets fall, a new report has warned.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) research found temporary additional funding streams, such as the government’s children’s social care innovation fund, were becoming “increasingly critical” to services as core investment in councils reduced.

Local authorities that responded to the report raised concerns over the instability of grant funding. One said it was “wearing to keep chasing grants that are only going to be around for a year or two”. A second council warned it was hard to plan services around “short-term, unstable temporary funding sources”.

Rising demand

The report said some local authorities no longer had protected social care budgets and were beginning to see reductions. Once council said it had made £80 million worth of cuts since 2010, and needed to make £47 million more by 2020.

The funding crisis comes alongside rising demand for care. The report estimated that 2.19 million initial contacts were made to children’s social care in in 2015/16, a 53% increase since 2007/08. Referrals were up 12% on the same period, and the number of children subjects to child protection plans had increased 78%.

Tipping point

Dave Hill, president of the ADCS, warned the system was approaching a “tipping point” and the effects of six years of austerity on services could not be understated.

“The impact of this, alongside rising levels of poverty, on our communities is now visible, and likely to grow, as we see children and young people’s needs becoming more and more complex and widespread.

“Worryingly, the growing prevalence and the impact of the ‘toxic trio’ – parental mental health, substance misuse and domestic abuse – continues to be a major concern for our members and their teams.

“Without addressing the root causes of some of these issues we will never see the sort of reductions we would like to see in terms of fewer children coming into care allowing us to do even better for those who are already in our care.”

The report warned of increasing churn in the social work workforce with “greater incentives” for frontline staff to change jobs.

“The ASYE workforce is being recruited into existing vacancies, but many authorities report that whilst helpful in the longer term, this does present some early challenges, for example in the allocation of more complex cases,” the report said.

“The quality of agency staff varies, with some authorities reporting concerns about the lack of expertise of some. This may correlate with other more generic comments about ASYEs leaving to move to “more lucrative agency positions,” it added.

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5 Responses to ‘Unstable’ funding for children’s social care hitting services

  1. Longtime SW December 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    . . . . . . alongside strong evidence of longer hours worked unpaid by frontline staff, no pay rises for 5 years, increased workloads.

    What did you expect when you, or someone sitting near you, voted for this Government?

    • Dave James December 7, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

      Our local council are cutting 400k from the fostering service but pay 300k wages for union officials. That is a Labour council, not the conservative government making that call.

      • Tom J December 8, 2016 at 11:52 am #

        Dave- this has to be complete rubbish.

        I assume you mean facilities time? There is sometimes an agreement that one person in a union can be seconded fulltime. However the council will only cover their wage. In my city, her council wage is £18k so this is covered whilst she is a union full timer. I cannot possibly see how your council could get anywhere near £300k? Unless the chief exec has applied and voted in to be the Union Full timer (which is extremely, extremely unlikely) Please tell me the city and I will look into this.

        Also- I am a council worker and a rep- if someone needs to be represented I will support them. HOWEVER realistically I have to fit this around my work. So if I support one worker for two hours- they do not take cases/work off me. But when the taxpayers alliance does an FOI request the council give the hours I and other reps have done based on our hourly rate. But realistically this is not ‘new money’.

        Re- Labour Council. Yes Tories say here’s your new reduced budget and bar a few mutterings Labour Councillors pass the cuts onto their residents.

  2. LAworker December 7, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    A perfect storm is approaching. Reduced ability t
    Intervene early as no stable
    funding for councils, increased costs for placements from providers who can name their price due to demand, LA services stretched to breaking point, social workers being given unreasonable case loads, other agencies unable to support due to their own cuts and increase in children and families needing support as society is imploding due to years of austerity

  3. L A worker 2 December 9, 2016 at 12:20 am #

    In our local authority services for children are being stripped down and whilst it is recognised that cases are far more complex with little support in the way of other services, it is notable that service managers continue to expect more in the way of higher caseloads. Discussions with managers and Directors clearly evidence their powerlessness to address the frightening fact that children in this country will soon not be safe. I ask why have us social workers allowed this government to disempower public sector workers. Why have unions not collaborated with nursing unions and challenged austerity!