Financial Armageddon

09 SEP 2010

MoneyRobert McCulloch-Graham, head of Barnet's children's services, speaking of the department's strain to cope with reduced resources and a doubling of demand, likened its financial position to ‘Armageddon'.

According to McCulloch-Graham, Barnet children's services is facing cuts of up to 50 per cent in grants and up to 20 per cent in its core budget over the next 3 years. Combined with an increase of 50 per cent in the number of referrals to its children's social care department over the past two years, resources are stretched to their limits.

Nottinghamshire, too, is facing an increased demand on its children's services. Anthony May, director of children and young people's services said: "We have seen a 56 per cent increase in referrals over the last year, an 83 per cent increase over the past two years in the number of children subject to child protection plans and a 24 per cent increase in the number of children coming into council care over the same period."

Other councils allegedly having to consider cuts include Birmingham (£13m), Somerset county council (£17m) and Hampshire county council (£24m). Haringey, the council that failed to protect Baby P and arguably instigated the recent crisis in child protection, has to make savings of up to £60m over the coming 3 years.

Early intervention is invaluable for child protection, working with at risk families before issues escalate both in gravity and costs, requiring safeguarding intervention. The big question is how to invest in early intervention without a concurrent divestment in crisis intervention.

McCulloch-Graham, though, is positive about being able to overcome the challenges posed by the financial difficulties facing many councils. He said: "We will be doing much more targeted early intervention work, enabling families to support themselves and reducing the demand on the acute specialist and more expensive provision. In order to achieve this, we will absorb the reduction of resources in our more universal and general services."

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