Children’s services pressures could lead to £3m Swindon Council deficit

Mounting pressures on children’s services could push Swindon Borough Council into a £3m overspend, board papers indicate.

A Cabinet meeting of the local authority on 6 September indicated that the council’s overall budget will be overspent by £3m for the 2018-19 financial year — an increase of £879,000 compared to the position reported to the Cabinet in July.

Children’s social care takes up the lion’s share of expenditure for the council, with a £1.4m increase since July as a result of growing demand for placements and the impact of filling vacancies by agency staff.

“The actions set out in the July Cabinet report are being implemented, but there are clear risks to the council’s ability to contain spending within the overall budget due to the pressures being faced and the inherent uncertainty in predicting future demand,” the budget management report wrote.

The council’s corporate management team will now work with senior management teams to identify options to mitigate the overall overspend, including a commitment to hold existing vacancies in non-essential posts and declare the financial savings from these, a critical review of spend on agency staff and other procurement spend, and manage risks in the existing forecast, including the delivery of housing and land sales through the council’s housing company.

The Swindon Advertiser reported that Cabinet member for children and school attainment Cllr Mary Martin said: “The most significant part of this overspend is from the cost of external placements for looked after children.

“As corporate parents, we need to make sure that they are in the most appropriate placement and their needs are met.

“The overspend is a combination of factors. An increase in the number of children becoming looked after, more expensive independent fostering placements, the increase in children being placed in high cost residential placements or supported accommodation with high cost care packages, and the increasingly complex needs of children coming in to care.”

Labour spokesperson for children’s services Cllr Carol Shelley said this is a consequence of the government’s “austerity agenda.”

“Austerity is increasing pressures on public services as a consequence of more people falling into crisis, yet councils are having to cut back on public services as a result of government funding cuts. I believe more investment is needed to work on early prevention in local communities before people fall into crisis,” she added.

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Image credit: georgeclerk


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