For the Select Committee to scrutinise the revenue savings proposals for Children’s Services that have been developed as part of the Transformation to 2021 Programme.
The Committee received a report and presentation from the Director of Children’s Services, which provided an overview of the revenue savings proposals for Transformation to 2021 (see Item 6 in the Minute Book).
Officers led Members through the slides and attention was drawn to the recent Government spending review which didn’t provide certainty beyond 2021, in the light of rising demand and the cost of children’s social care. The key issues facing the County Council were explained and the additional funding for schools was noted. It was heard that there was no detail at the moment in relation to Government funding and children with complex needs and disabilities, but the Government would be reviewing special education needs (SEN) next year.
It was heard that T21 would be challenging with a need to ensure sufficient capacity to lead and maintain an adaptable and strong workforce. The savings targets for children’s services were explained in relation to the various work streams, and it was anticipated that there would be some staff reductions but almost all through ‘natural wastage’ rather than redundancies.
Members were led through the various work stream savings proposals which included government funding, home to school transport and admin efficiencies. In relation to proposal 3 – Transforming Social Care, it was explained that the department would continue to increase the numbers of children who could remain at home safely. Officers also drew Members attention to the challenges around foster care placements and external organisations who were driving the cost up.
It was heard that there would be a public consultation in due course in relation to scope to achieve savings to the short breaks programme and focus on core priorities for parents and carers. Attention was drawn to the fact that short breaks was the only service within children’s services which was still discretionary.
The significant shortfall in health contributions from the Clinical Commissioning Groups was highlighted at proposal 7, and it was heard that this amounted to £1.8 million and was shown as an income stream. It was heard that in relation to youth offending, youth crime had reduced consistently in the last ten years, and there were legitimate efficiencies which could be made which wouldn’t compromise the high standard of the service.
The spend in Hampshire per child was explained and it was heard that in relation to other authorities, the spend in Hampshire per child was low at £540 and on a par with another Ofsted rated Outstanding local authority
Members heard that there were risks that the department couldn’t anticipate in the future such as emerging forms of abuse, and national issues that could heighten anxiety at a local level. Officers highlighted the consultation ‘Serving Hampshire – Balancing the Budget 2019’ which gave Hampshire residents and stakeholders the chance to comment on ways to balance the County Council budget, and it was heard that out of the 5432 responses, 52% of respondents agreed that the County Council should continue with its current financial strategy which included prioritising the needs of vulnerable groups, including children. Officers concluded by highlighting the key messages of Transformation to 2021 and it was also noted that significant reductions in spend had been delivered to date.
In response to questions, Members heard:
· Additional Government funding of £8.1million to support social care in 2018/19, and the Medium Term Financial Strategy has budgeted for this income to recur and will be used towards the department’s savings target.
· That in terms of foster care places, a number of Hampshire children were placed in other authority areas but these would be local to the child. For example a child who lived in Havant could be placed in a Portsmouth foster home.
· That work was underway to better manage the foster market locally in Hampshire, but continued increased placement costs for children in care with independent foster care agencies remained a challenge as demand outstrips supply.
· That the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has received significant funding for serious violence reduction and this should continue for the next 2/3 years. More preventive work through youth offending with the possibility of funding being given to assist with this was highlighted.
· That it would be ensured that there would be a range of early years provision and quality of provision as part of the early years statutory responsibility.
· The use of technology in relation to childminders and money from providers will help to achieve admin efficiencies and release a vacant job position as a result.
· That with the increase in the numbers of children in care, it could be argued that there was a need for more children’s homes, but this could risk substituting family care in a foster care environment for residential care which may not be in the best interest of an individual child.
The Chairman moved to debate and the following arguments were heard:
· That Members need to show support to Executive Members and Officers in planning these changes.
· That the Council can’t continue to keep cutting services, especially in relation to children, and funding needs to be increased and not reduced.
The Chairman moved to the substantive recommendation as set out in the paper:
That the Children and Young People Select Committee consider the detailed savings proposals and support the recommendations being proposed to the Executive Lead Member in Section 2 of the report.
A vote was taken on the proposed recommendation:
That the Children and Young People Select Committee considered the detailed savings proposals and supported the recommendations being proposed to the Executive Lead Member for Children's Services and Young People in Section 2 of the report.