Supporting the increasing numbers of children needing social care and responding to the council’s changing role as an education authority are the driving force behind proposed changes to Northamptonshire County Council’s children and young people’s directorate.
The draft budget includes a £10million investment in children’s social care to meet the demand-led pressures caused by the significant increase in the number of children being referred to social care teams and on some occasions being taken into care.
In addition to the focus on social care services, the council will be giving greater priority to preventative and early intervention services to minimise the numbers of children needing more costly specialist services. Investment will be targeted on services with clear evidence of positive impact on outcomes for children.
Councillor Andrew Grant, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The safeguarding of children and young people presents one of our biggest financial challenges as their well-being and safety is paramount.
“Our aim is that through building capacity in those services that children and families receive at an early stage, and by targeting support earlier to those families identified as being as risk of poorer outcomes, we will reduce the need for higher-cost targeted and specialist services.
“We will also seek to build and extend the capacity of local fostering placements available to us so we can avoid using more expensive agency provision, often out of the child’s community and even out of the county.”
The draft budget lays the foundations for the council’s role to become more focused on integrating commissioning of services with partners and planning for the commissioning powers that will be assumed by GPs and schools as a result of Government proposals.
The draft budget also builds further on the recently-introduced area-based model of delivery, based on the principle of local multi-agency and multi-disciplinary teams focussed in small geographical areas around clusters of schools.
The draft budget proposed savings of £13million, with savings of £3.16million identified as a result of improved area-based working and remodelled social care delivery. The focus on early intervention will deliver savings of approx £0.84million while changes to the commissioning of services will save £1.8million.
The budget also proposes changes to reflect the reduced role that local authorities will have in the future in the area of school-related services.
Councillor Andrew Grant added: “There has been a significant reduction in funding we receive from schools-related grants. The government has decided that funding will now go direct to schools, which will have a greater role in commissioning services such as school improvement and performance. With those resources being diverted to schools, the council’s role in education will shrink to providing core statutory functions.
“In response to those changes, we’re exploring the possibility of creating an arm’s length community interest company from which schools can purchase services across a variety of areas of expertise, including school improvement and professional development for teachers.”
The proposed remodelling of the school improvement service will result in a saving of £0.3 million.