Committee Update: RS and SPI December 2018

Members of the Association’s Resources & Sustainability and the Standards, Performance & Inspection Policy Committees met jointly in London on Thursday 22 November to discuss shared areas of interest. The Early Intervention Foundation’s (EIF’s) Director of Policy and Evidence joined the group to discuss how we can collectively make the case for investing in early intervention. The EIF recently published a report on this topic and the group ran through the key messages and recommendations. Some of the key challenges to investing in helping children and families earlier included short term funding settlements, the political imperative for ‘quick wins,’ fragmented responsibility for children’s policy across myriad government departments, not delivering ‘what works,’ and, gaps in our knowledge and understanding.

We know that receiving help at any stage in a child’s life can make a difference if appropriately targeted and tailored to their needs and we know there are some key areas where it can make the biggest impact, particularly in relation to risky behaviours in adolescence. Reducing the need for children’s social care interventions should not be the driver for this work nor should cashable savings. Returns on investment may take many years to come to fruition.

Discussions then moved onto the findings of the sixth phase of the Association’s ‘Safeguarding Pressures’ research – over the last 10 years child protection activity has increased significantly, from initial contacts to the numbers of children in care, yet funding has reduced dramatically over this same period – by 50%. These findings will feed into the Association’s written submission to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s current inquiry on funding for children’s services. The group agreed it is important to emphasise the growing pressure in the high needs funding block in the submission and that we seek to debunk the myth surrounding spend and outcomes achieved – some of the highest performing authorities in the country have begun raising concerns about their precarious funding situation publicly.

The group then considered in more detail the pressures in the high needs budget, noting in particular the demand coming from FE colleges, who are referring young people aged 16+ we’ve never had dealings with before for assessment and the huge inconsistency in health contributions to the costs of meeting a child or young person’s personal education, health and care plan. The group agreed these were significant concerns.

The gap in regulatory activity in terms of assuring the operations of large chains of children’s homes was also considered alongside some of the indicators which might usefully be included in the expanded Regional Improvement Alliance dataset to help identify those authorities in danger of slipping. Some of the suggested additions to the draft dataset included the percentage of the children’s workforce that is made up of agency social workers, financial fragility and engagement in regional work. The group agreed it is important that these softer indicators are clearly defined to ensure ‘like for like’ is being measured in each of the regional groupings.

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