An extra £140m is needed to turn children’s social care services around in Birmingham, the service’s commissioner has warned.
In his second progress report for the council, Lord Norman Warner said: “The work undertaken suggests that the extra costs of safeguarding and looking after more children over the next three years may well cost an additional £140m over three years and reach an annual cost of nearly £50m by 2017/18.”
As the council faces further budget cuts, funding this improvement will be “virtually impossible” for the authority without further major reductions in other services, he warned.
“Without this investment the shortcomings identified by Ofsted and others will not be made good,” Warner said.
Warner was appointed children’s commissioner in the city after its children’s services had been rated inadequate for four years, and following the publication of Julian Le Grand’s review for improving the city’s services.
Despite the funding problems, Warner complimented the council on making steady progress in improving its children’s services, recruiting basic grade social workers and limiting caseload sizes.
However, he found an “inadequacy” of social work capability in both quantity and quality and a lack of supervision and development of social workers, which he said would help boost retention.
“Without some guarantee of sufficient resources and a credible social worker recruitment and retention strategy the 3-year improvement plan will not be delivered,” he warned.
Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, said the council is further developing their strategy to address the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining social workers.
The plan, Jones said, includes a highly competitive package that incorporates a clear pathway for professional development.
“In practice this will ensure progression from social worker role to senior social worker for those eligible when they have been at the council for two or more years,” she said.
Jones praised the council for “making improvements at a time when our financial position is hugely challenging” and outlined the £71.4m they plan to invest in their improvement effort over the next three years.
The report was presented to the Birmingham education and vulnerable children overview and scrutiny committee this week.