New ac­tion plan for chil­dren’s ser­vices

Depart­ment over­spent £700k after poor re­view

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - By Lor­can Lovett lor­can.lovett@trin­i­tymir­

AN OVER­SPEND of more than £700,000 in chil­dren’s ser­vices which fol­lowed its ‘in­ad­e­quate’ rat­ing by Of­sted is be­ing coun­tered with a re­cov­ery plan.

Cab­i­net mem­ber for the be­lea­guered depart­ment, Coun­cil­lor Lin Hazell, ad­dressed her col­leagues dur­ing a bud­get scru­tiny com­mit­tee at County Hall in Ayles­bury.

Mrs Hazell said the £717,000 over­spend­ing of the bud­get was be­cause of over­heads in the man­age­ment struc­ture, spend­ing on agency staff and spend­ing on asy­lum seeker re­lated costs for un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren.

She told the meet­ing last Thurs­day that more needs to be done in

Lin Hazell, chair­man of the health and adult so­cial care se­lect com­mit­tee avoid­ing agen­cies, quick­en­ing the foster process and re­cruit­ing so­cial work­ers, adding: “We are man­ag­ing an ex­tremely volatile bud­get where we have more un­knowns than knowns.

“It is a very dif­fi­cult sce­nario that we find our­selves in.

“All I can say is we need to do a lot more work on how we de­liver things in gen­eral.

“We cer­tainly need more foster car­ers so there is a huge re­cruit­ment process go­ing on.

“In-house foster car­ers are ac­tu­ally more eco­nom­i­cal than in­de­pen­dent agen­cies. Huge work needs to be done to in­crease our foster care base.

“We cer­tainly need to be slicker when we have peo­ple come for­ward to be a foster par­ent.

“The trou­ble is, it’s such an im­por­tant and sen­si­tive area we have to get the right matches [of chil­dren to car­ers] go­ing through and that is some­times the thing that de­lays the process.

“We can ar­gue we are be­ing too risk averse but if we get it wrong any­where along the line we have big prob­lems, we have news­pa­per head­lines.”

She said avoid­ing a ‘tor­tu­ous process’ and the coun­cil ‘ty­ing it­self up with red tape’ was im­por­tant to at­tract po­ten­tial car­ers.

She said the depart­ment has to re­view rates of pay and terms and con­di­tions to im­prove re­cruit­ment among so­cial work­ers.

Mrs Hazell re­placed An­gela Macpher­son after she re­signed due to ‘per­sonal rea­sons’ in Novem­ber.

Mrs Hazell said the re­cov­ery plan which in­volves cut­ting agency staff through in­creas­ing re­cruit­ment be­gan in Novem­ber and needs more time to show re­sults.

Scouts, guides and young farm­ers have signed up to the project, as well as lo­cal youth clubs, which will take place in the spring.

The project com­prises 34 three­hour ses­sions at 10 green spots. More than 20 youth groups are in­volved and young­sters be­tween the ages of


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