The children’s minister has told MPs that there is no link between spending and quality in children’s social care.
In an education committee meeting yesterday, Edward Timpson was challenged on how the government could meet its improvement targets for children in care’s mental health despite local government cuts.
Timpson said it was “encouraging” that children’s social care was an area local authorities were trying to protect, but said: “When you look at the quality of the service that is being provided, the correlation between spend and quality is not there.”
He said some of the lowest spending authorities were some of the highest performers, and “some of the councils unfortunately we’ve had to intervene in, and in some cases find other ways for their services to be delivered outside of the authority, have been some of the highest spenders”.
Timpson was responding to a question by Ian Mearns MP, who said his council, Gateshead, would have to cut children’s services spending even if it stopped providing all non-social care services.
Mearns said: “With the withdrawal of the revenue support grant in total by the end of this parliament, even if the local authority cuts 100% of all of their services, which includes all their statutory requirements like refuse collection for instance… the local authority will still have to make cuts in adult social care and in children’s services.”
The education committee was holding evidence for its inquiry into the mental health of looked-after children and Timpson and care minister Alistair Burt used the opportunity to announce an expert group to “develop care pathways that will support an integrated approach to meeting the needs of looked-after children with mental health difficulties”. The group will be set up by the summer, Burt said.
New inquiry into funding cuts
Timpson’s statement on funding came the day before the launch of an inquiry into the impact of funding cuts for children’s social care.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children will assess how services are responding to reduced funding and increased demand, and look at what reforms might be needed to improve support for vulnerable children.
Tim Loughton, the co-chair of the group and former children’s minister, said: “With the introduction of widespread reforms, a new inspection framework and changes to demand and resourcing, there is an urgent need to establish how local services are adapting to the new climate.”
He added: “Of course local authority providers face barriers to delivering effective services for children, but they also innovate and we hope this inquiry will provide a means of sharing that learning, as well as showing where policy and legislation must change.”