The president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has issued a stark warning about the future financial viability of services that protect children and support families.
Speaking at the annual ADCS conference in Manchester, Stuart Gallimore told the two ministers in attendance, education secretary Damian Hinds and children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi, “there is not enough money in the system, full stop”, and dismissed arguments that current funding is sufficient, but spent disproportionately on care placements.
“There is simply no fat left to trim, instead authorities up and down the country have found themselves having to cut back on early help services, which makes no financial sense,” Gallimore said.
Speaking to Community Care, Gallimore referenced a recent Twitter exchange between the chief social worker for children, Isabelle Trowler, and former ADCS president Alison Michalska, where Trowler had suggested there was enough money in the system currently, it was just being spent in the wrong areas.
“It’s just a bit of a rubbish debate,” Gallimore said.
the ££ is there isn’t it? But it’s spent disproportionately in the care system rather than support system. The strategy needs to focus on how to switch the balance? https://t.co/a1Ovh1Zym3
— Isabelle Trowler (@IsabelleTrowler) June 16, 2018
No! The money simply isn’t there!! Many good Councils, with excellent preventative services do not have the money to meet the demand placed on them by rising levels of child poverty and years of austerity @helencblackman @ADCStweets @RachelDicknson1 @stuartdcs @CllrDavidMellen https://t.co/3aVWId5ngH
— Alison Michalska (@amichalska_ncc) June 19, 2018
“I think it is too simplistic to offer it on the presumption that for children in care, all of the children in care, that care wasn’t the right place for them to be; that they could all have been diverted and that would have saved money.
“It almost feels to be predicated on an argument that care is inherently bad, and I don’t subscribe to that,” Gallimore said.
Going forward, he said directors have to be “noisier” around making the case for funding so councils can invest in long-term good services, adding the costs of placements “are going to be there for the foreseeable future”.
“What we need is fair funding. The innovation fund has been helpful in doing what it said – providing some upfront money for people to innovate – but that’s not a sustainable way of running services,” Gallimore said.
He added: “Short-term, ring-fenced sums of money – while helpful – can never be the answer. What local authorities need to know is their revenue base has been increased by a sum of money they will get that and next year, so they can long-term invest in services that make a difference.”
In a speech at the conference, children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi said that he had heard the “clear message” on funding.
“I want to acknowledge this, and say that I am listening – and I particularly want to work with you to understand the evidence for additional investment,” Zahawi said.
Gallimore welcomed the focus on social work reform and said he was “delighted” that the new social work regulator, Social Work England, was progressing, but urged more focus on the wider children’s workforce.
“Social workers, key workers, early help practitioners, youth workers, our unsung residential workers, and health visitors…. It is the quality of the relationships they forge that make the difference. Their emotional wellbeing is key if they are to be effective as they bear the brunt of the public service reductions,” Gallimore said.
“I qualified as a social worker over 30 years ago, but I cannot claim to have had to deal with the volume and complexity that is taken for granted today. It is why I go out on a monthly basis with them, so I know exactly what it’s like. It is incumbent on us to find ways not only to encourage the next generation but to support our current ones who make a difference day in day out.”