Local government funding risk to social work reforms

A lack of local government funding could put the social work reform process at risk, the children’s secretary has admitted.

Although, under a Labour government, the Department for Children, Schools and Families would make the reforms a top priority, Ed Balls admitted there were question marks over future core local authority budgets, which are controlled by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

If Labour is re-elected at the forthcoming general election it has pledged to carry out a spending review for government departments later this year covering 2011 to 2014. If the Conservative party is elected, it has announced plans to hold an emergency budget shortly afterwards.

“There is clearly an issue about local authority budgets after 2011. I won’t be proposing any changes to the central DCSF budget that will undermine any of the social work reform agenda,” said Balls. “I hope we will see the same approach taken in the spending review.”

For the initial stage of its Social Work Reform implementation plan , the government has announced it will invest more than £200m in adult and children’s services over the course of 2010-11.

Of this, £102m will come from the DCSF, about half of which will pay for the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s programmes to support recruitment, retention and remodelling in children’s social work.

The £102m also includes £23m of flexible funding to allow employers to reduce pressures on frontline staff, £15m for local IT improvements and £2.5m for the college of social work.

On future funding, the government’s implementation plan said: “Progress and priorities will be assessed at key points in the programme, with this implementation plan being refreshed for the first time early in 2011 to confirm funding arrangements for phase two.”

Tim Loughton, shadow children’s minister, has said he “would not promise funding” for any of the DCSF’s current projects, but said he agrees in principle with a lot of the Social Work Task Force’s recommendations.

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