Proposals to transform the way we deliver services for children and young people and bridge the 2018/19 funding gap will be discussed at the Children and Young People Committee at 2pm on Tuesday 10 October.
In the past six years Cambridgeshire County Council has successfully delivered £215 million of savings while still providing good quality services, but we know over the next five years we face a further £100m pressure on budgets.
Delivery of £31m of savings in 2017/18 is on track, and the Council is now working on plans to deliver further savings in 2018/19. Taken together the Council goes in to its budget planning round this Autumn with a £37.5 million gap between the money it receives from the Government, from council tax, business rates and the income it makes – and the amount it needs to spend on services.
We are also working with the County’s MPs and the County Council’s Network to take a strong message to Government, that historic underfunding of large rural counties cannot continue, with our Fairdeal4Cambs campaign.
In Cambridgeshire children’s services have come under substantial pressure in recent years with a nearly 50% (48.8%) increase in the number of Looked after Children (LAC). Those children who need care have increasingly complex needs which puts pressure on foster care placements and increases the cost of care. Some additional investment will be required in 2018/19 to cope with increasing demand, including in the budget for caring for these children. As with many local authorities we have experienced a steady rise in the number of Looked after Children in recent years. Looking ahead, the number is predicted to increase by around 4% each year and this equates to around 25 more children to care for.
Our approach to business planning and response to this pattern of rising demand creates the imperative for change. We are committed to:
- Investing in our services to transform them, delivering better outcomes and constrained demand
- Transforming the way we work – making improvements to how we manage our business, our people and our money
- Better managing the contracts we have with suppliers and external providers
- Developing new and deeper partnerships – bringing benefits for all
- Only considering reducing services as a last resort
In our work with children and young people we will deliver this by:
- Transforming how we support Looked after Children through a number of initiatives including significantly increasing the number of in house foster carers to reduce reliance on the more costly independent fostering placements; developing new supported lodgings provision as a cost-effective way to meet the needs of 16 and 17 year olds; and creating a new hub model – multi-disciplinary teams supporting children to continue to live at home. This will deliver an estimated £2million reduction in the placements budget for children looked after by the Council.
- A number of proposals to ensure that our home to school transport is efficient and flexible. This will include independence training and personal travel budgets for pupils with special needs and a review of the home to school transport service and contracts to ensure they are as efficient as possible whilst ensuring that all eligible pupils continue to receive their free transport entitlement in line with Council policy on journey times. Investing in training and support to help pupils with additional needs to travel independently on school buses or public transport will enable them to develop confidence in using travel options for learning, work and social activities for the rest of their lives.
- Identifying savings related to the changing role of local authorities in education to focus on our statutory and core roles and functions, as well as reviewing the services we supply to schools, such as catering and cleaning and ICT support.
- The proposed reform of our Children’s Centres which will be discussed at the Full Council meeting on 17 October. Services will be focused on the most vulnerable children and young people. A redesigned flexible service providing support to families when and where they really need them and not restricted to delivery from children’s centre buildings.
Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children and Young People Committee, said, “We have already delivered a significant programme of transformational change across Children’s Services in recent years, in particular through the Children’s Change Programme. This has developed a more efficient and effective service model and helped us deliver multi-million pound savings to contribute to the challenges facing the local authority.
“However we are still experiencing high levels of demand with the number of children in care remaining at a higher level than Cambridgeshire has had previously and a rising prevalence of special educational need and disability. The level of demand goes beyond that which can be absorbed within services and so it needs to be met by additional investment, as well as changing the way we do things.”