Cllr Brigid Jones announced on Tuesday at the budget consultation meeting in Erdington that there had been a ‘massive underspend’ on children’s social care in Birmingham compared to other cities.
Birmingham’s per capita spend on children’s social care was £576 as opposed to £600 which is the median for other city authorities, that is a difference of £24 per head. Birmingham per capita spend ranked it as 24th out of 36 comparable authorities
The additional £9m investment in 2014 will bring the per capita spend up to £606 in Birmingham and will close the resource gap with other authorities. It is understood that the new funds will be released by transferring the funding of some education related services from the General Fund and transferring them to the Direct schools Grant.
The annual Auditors letter to the City Council for 2012-13 recently raised the connection between this under resourcing of children’s social care and the current problems of the department in failing to protect children.
According to the Auditors ‘we note that the Council’s planned spend per head on children’s social care for 2012/13 was considerably below the comparator group average. Given the issues highlighted with regard to the protection of vulnerable children the Council should consider whether its inadequate arrangements are the result of insufficient resources or are the result of other management, staffing or governance failures.’
Birmingham safeguarding services have been failing for over five years and are currently under threat of Government intervention, Michael Gove has sent in an independent review team to make an assessment of the City Council’s capacity to improve safeguarding services and if unable to improve to propose alternative arrangements for the provision of social care in the city. The Review will report to the Secretary of State in 2014.
It is publicly accepted by Senior Officers and Politicians that not all children at risk of significant harm in the city are currently being adequately protected.
Sir Albert Bore said recently that the Council first had warnings of problems in safeguarding services as early as 2007. The question is though why has it taken until 2014 for this under resourcing of critical frontline services to be rectified?
If the Council accepts that new resources must be found as the basis to improve social work practice with vulnerable children and families, or as Peter Hay has it ‘to create the conditions for great social work’ , it must also accept that insufficient resources will have the opposite effect.
We need to hold our local politicians to account for having deprived Children’s social care of adequate funding over recent years. .