Efficiency plans for children’s services

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NEW plans are being formulated in an attempt to reduce the costs of operating Doncaster Council’s troubled children’s services unit and to improve the work it does.

The council has been struggling to improve the service since it was hit by a series of serious problems, including the notorious Edlington case, in the last few years and that has seen management changes.

Although an improvement partner was appointed in an attempt to push through changes, the Secretary of State for Education announced earlier this year that an independent trust would be created to take charge of children’s services because of a failure to bring about sufficient improvements quickly enough.

A report to the council’s ruling Cabinet on Wednesday warns that numbers of referrals to children’s social care and the numbers subject to child protection plans or in care “remain very high”.

Councillors will be told: “The lack of effective early help intervention services to support families needs to be addressed otherwise this situation is unlikely to change.”

It also states that an efficiency plan to reduce costs has yet to be completed but says work to date “shows that there is significant scope for reduction in spending”.

The objectives will be to reduce numbers of children in the system and numbers entering the system, reduce the cost of care packages and cut the use of agency staff.

Those areas are expected to be the focus of cost saving work over the next three financial years, with an efficiency plan running alongside the improvement plan.

The report states that work is continuing to improve services for children, ahead of the revised plan being agreed, stating “The need to speed up the pace of improvement and to ensure that the broader scope of children’s services is taken into account require a refreshed improvement plan.”