Devon children’s chief vows to get services to good
Posted on: 8 June 2016
Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for children says he’s acutely aware the service’s budget must not overspend this year.
But James McInnes says he is still determined that children’s services should be rated good by national inspectors.
Mr McInnes was commenting after county councillors heard their overall budget was in the black for the 25th consecutive year.
Devon underspent by £35,000 in the 2015/16 financial year on a net revenue budget of £500.105 million.
But children’s social work and child protection finished the year overspent by nearly £13.9 million.
Councillors were told this was mainly the result of more children being placed in care than allowed for in the budget.
The cost of social workers was also higher than budgeted. But the numbers of both agency workers and social workers were reduced during the year and, by the last two months of the year, were within budgeted levels.
Devon is now recruiting and training more staff social workers and a further 20 agency posts will be replaced in the autumn.
Councillors heard in the 2016/17 budget, spending for People services was increased by nearly £16.2 million in recognition of the increase in demand faced by the caring services.
Devon’s deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance, John Clatworthy, said: “It is vital that the People’s budget is delivered on target otherwise the run of budget delivery could be broken.”
Mr McInnes told Cabinet colleagues: “We have to live within our budget and I am acutely aware of that.
“The budget last year was not adequate for the amount of children we had to look after. We have got more money into the budget this year and I am meeting regularly with John Clatworthy and the heads of service to ensure we remain within budget.”
Mr McInnes said when he took over the Cabinet portfolio for children’s services, Ofsted had ruled that Devon was inadequate.
Following the latest Osted inspection, the service was now classed as requiring improvement.
“It is my ambition and the ambition of this council for our services to be judged as good,” said Mr McInnes, “and that is the equivalent task to getting from inadequate to requires improvement.
“The costs come down when you get to good because it means the whole system – health, police, probation and social services – is working and dealing with problems at an early stage when they can be more easily resolved.
“We must have that ambition for all our children and families in Devon no matter what the Government does to us financially.”
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