Birmingham city council plans to cut staff from a specialist child protection assessment team due to the authority facing “unprecedented” financial pressures.
The service provides specialist assessments of parenting capacity for the city’s most vulnerable families and has expertise in working with learning disabled parents. The cutbacks will save £200,000 a year but the council admitted they could also leave families facing longer waits to be seen.
“The proposal to make financial savings from this service is to reduce the number of staff who work in the team and reallocate staff to area safeguarding teams and retain senior social work to co-ordinate activity,” the council said.
“This may mean that the service provided is not as flexible and families may be required to wait longer for this specialist assessment.”
The proposal is included in a set of wide-ranging budget plans put out to consultation this week. Other savings in children’s services include a proposal to merge two children’s homes to save £400,000 a year and plans to save £100,000 a year by reducing the volume of sessions offered by a service that arranges and supervises contact with parents and families for children in care.
Birmingham’s children’s services have been under pressure for years having been rated ‘inadequate’ in its last four Ofsted inspections. Earlier this year the council announced it would transfer the services to an independent trust following talks with the Department for Education.
The council’s leader said children’s services was a “priority area” that it was continuing to invest in wherever possible but “severe cuts” to its central government funding had left the authority needing to find at least £180m of cost savings across departments by 2021.
Cost cutting proposals will also hit adult social services, where the council aims to make the bulk of savings by reducing reliance on residential and hospital care. Proposals include:
- Re-designing community social work services so that they are integrated with local GP surgeries, to save £2.5m a year through reductions in residential care.
- Reviewing care packages where service users are supported by two carers to see whether needs could be met by one carer with some assistive technology. This could save £2m a year.
- Removing a switchboard messaging service so that service user calls may go straight through to their allocated social workers directly, to save £250,000 a year.
John Clancy, leader of Birmingham council, said the authority was facing “an extremely tough financial landscape” given the cuts to its central government grant.
“In such circumstances, the task of putting together the 2017/18 budget posed unprecedented difficulties as dwindling government funding and unremitting pressure to meet growing demand for adult social care combined to pose the greatest financial challenge ever faced by the council.”
He said “unpalatable decisions” were inevitable. Every conceivable saving was considered, he said, and some were rejected as being “unacceptable”.
“We are continuing to invest in our priority areas of children’s services, housing, jobs and skills wherever possible,” Clancy said.