The new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has warned that “stupid” cuts being forced on to local authority children’s services will lead to “pretty dire” consequences for services and service users.
Speaking to Community Care, Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services in East Sussex, said he would make improving the funding situation for children’s services one of the main goals of his presidency.
“We know that authorities up and down the land are having to do some really difficult things to balance budgets and we know some of those things are stupid things to do,” Gallimore said.
“We are cutting back on early help services, preventative services, targeted services, despite the fact we know they work, despite the fact we know [the cuts] will feed demand into the system at a later point.”
He said “dumb things” being forced on local authorities was “unavoidable in the financial envelope we are working with”.
He said the ADCS and Local Government Association had been campaigning to close what they estimate will be a £2 billion funding gap in children’s services by 2020, and added that five million children could be living in poverty by the same date.
“At the end of the day that is a political choice,” Gallimore said.
He added: “It just is really important to try and get to a position where in the face of increased work [coming] into the services, that we find a way as a nation to properly and appropriately fund those services.”
‘Step up to the plate’
“This time next year we will all be in authorities that have set their budget for the coming year. What we need to do is step up to the plate to appropriately and adequately fund local authorities up and down the land. We will either be in a place where we will be more successful in winning those arguments or we won’t, and if we haven’t done, then I think the consequences for services and for the recipients of those services are pretty dire,” Gallimore said.
He said if authorities are forced to continue to strip preventative and targeted services there could be “really poor outcomes” for children and families, which will create a further impact on budgets.
“We know the financial costs of not doing certain things, in truth we also know the actual lived consequences for that child, that family, that community, of not stepping in and intervening early, if we aren’t enabled to do that then sadly you can write the script for those children and young people, you can write the script for their community and it doesn’t make pleasant reading.
“Whereas we’ve got lots of examples, from great individual social work through to really effective programmes and projects, that are generating outcomes for children, families and the communities they live in,” Gallimore said.
He’s highlighted four priority areas for his presidency, which he said would build on the ADCS’s ‘A country that works for all children’ policy paper, published last October.
The other areas include supporting and enhancing the wider children’s services workforce, children missing from education and the services available to adolescents.
Gallimore’s presidency was launched at a reception today. A longer interview about his career and priorities can be read on Community Care.