Behind the headlines

regular panel comments on a topic in the news.

Social services will have 6 per cent more
funding each year thanks to the budget, but how should it be divided up between
the many deserving cases in social care? Last week, children’s charities such
as the NSPCC and NCH called on the government to ensure that a significant
proportion of the new money is spent on children’s services. The call was
prompted by a suspicion that the government, when it announces the distribution
formula for the money later in the year, will give the lion’s share to adult
services. This would be keeping with its electorally popular objective of
bringing an end to the bed-blocking crisis. Supported by the Association of
Directors of Social Services, the charities said that a substantial proportion
of the funding should be ring-fenced for children, on pain of failing to
achieve its aim of abolishing child poverty in 20 years. The implication
appeared to be that, if the government’s plan was to play at populist politics,
it may come a cropper. As the chief executive of one charity put it, children
are electorally popular too.

Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers Association
"Each week hundreds of at-risk children are not taken into care because councils
do not have placements for them. The shortage is so acute that Lancashire are
placing some children in care in prison. Would you put your children in prison
for their safety? More money must be put into children’s services, but spent
radically differently – especially on more decent council-run children’s homes,
not privatisation of care."

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and
Care for the Elderly
"I appreciate the
concerns of children’s charities, but do not think it is helpful to set one client
group against another. What we all should be doing is arguing for an
appropriate funding settlement for all client groups. This is particularly
important because, like all statistics, they can be viewed in many ways. For
example, the unit costs -Êthat is per user -Êof children’s services are
generally much higher than those of adult services, but these sorts of debates
only serve to distract our attention from the real issues of inadequate

Julia Ross, social services director and
primary care trust chief executive, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
"Children’s services
are just as much a priority as all other vulnerable groups. I’m against too
much earmarking because it cuts across local need and flexibility. It’s also
true that more spending on health will have a direct impact on social care.
What worries me more is that our obsession with the extra money and how to
distribute it means paying less attention to whether the old money is well
spent. It often isn’t – both in health and social care."

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow,
Nuffield Institute for Health, University of Leeds
"This lobbying for more
money for children’s services arises from the drift in central government
policy towards social care. It is bizarre that the Association of Directors of
Social Services should be backing a campaign asking for the ring-fencing of
money for children’s services – local democracy should mean more decisions
taken locally, not less. The real villain of the piece here is the Department of
Health and the way in which adult social care is being undermined by fines for
bed blocking and the promotion of care trust status."

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner,
"An overwhelming
majority of social services overspend on children’s services every year. It
would make sense for a certain amount of the additional funding to be
ring-fenced for children’s services to reduce the risk of an overspend next

But, as we know, bed blocking is the
political hot potato and that’s where health secretary Alan Milburn will direct
the cash. It looks like short-term point scoring from where I’m standing!"

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