Doncaster Council to cut children's trust funding by £4.5m

Tristan Donovan
Friday, March 16, 2018

Funding for the first children's trust to take over the running of children's services from a local authority will be cut by £4.5m over the next three years, it has been announced.

Budget documents published earlier this month show that Doncaster Council will cut funding for Doncaster Children's Services Trust by £2m in 2018/19, a further £2m in 2019/20 and £500,000 in 2020/21.

In 2017/18 the council provided the trust with an annual net budget of £42.2m. But following the first nine months of the financial year the trust was predicting an overspend of £2.98m. The majority of this (£2.6m) was a result of more children being taken into care and the cost of more complex cases.

A Doncaster Council report this month described the financial position as "a potential risk to continuous performance improvement".

"To mitigate this and ensure service improvement is sustained and protected over the longer term, monthly financial monitoring will be implemented," the report states.

"This will provide increased transparency of the financial position and will include more detailed information on the care ladder in particular movements in numbers and price by placement type and any income contributions."

Doncaster Council was stripped of control of children's services amid concerns with the quality of provision dating back to 2009, with Doncaster Children's Services Trust officially launching in October 2014.

Damian Allen, director of people at Doncaster Council, said the reductions are necessary due to the "different operating climate" for children's services.

"We fund the trust's contract and expect the outcomes, but we also expect the trust to give us value for money while improving the standards for care," said Allen.

In January Ofsted reported that children's services in Doncaster are now "good" and that the trust had been "highly effective" at building a culture where good social work can flourish.

It had been rated "inadequate" at the previous inspection in 2015.

Doncaster Children's Services Trust intends to make savings by slightly reducing the number of children in care needing high-cost services, finding business efficiencies, reducing its use of agency social workers and service restructuring.

A spokesperson for the Doncaster Children's Services Trust said: "Many children's services both regionally and nationally are experiencing significant increased demands on their services and as a result are incurring overspends on children's social care budgets.

"In Doncaster, our forecast overspend is approximately £2.9m, as a result of increased demands to support and care for some of our most vulnerable children living in the borough."

"This figure represents an overall overspend of six per cent, which compares to similar levels of overspend across the core cities and Yorkshire region.

"All options are explored by the trust before a child becomes looked-after in Doncaster, as was highlighted in our recent Ofsted inspection, which confirmed that such children were being appropriately safeguarded and which contributed to an overall judgment of ‘good'. 

"The trust is continuing to work closely with its partners to tackle this increasing demand on our services."

Last week Doncaster Children's Services Trust was announced of one of eight new partner in practice sites - which will work with other local authorities to improve standards.

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