In a report recently published DCC confirms that the overspend in Children’s Services will not be resolved in tax year 2017-18.
The budget overspend has increased from £4 million to £7 million. The Chief Finance Officer has confirmed that the original budget assumed a decrease in children in care and that such an assumption did not reflect reality.
At the end of September, DCC announced that our fostering service is set to undergo a multi-million-pound modernization to create a more efficient and effective service.
A review of the county council’s fostering system revealed that significant improvements are needed to halt the increased use of Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA).
This chimes with two e-mails that we received from our members who are experienced foster carers.
Carer A: as a foster carer for teenagers in our area, I'm not surprised that the budget for childcare has gone through the roof. Many carers like myself work for IFA. We take the more difficult cases that local authorities find hard to place, often with special educational needs.
I was shocked recently to discover that our foster agency is getting the same amount of money per child as the carers. Of course, they have some overheads but they also have shareholders.
A report commissioned by DCC highlighted the increase in the numbers of children in care. It raised concerns that using IFAs can result in poorer outcomes as children are placed further from home and such placements can cost up to £19,000 more each year than an in-house council service.
DCC approved the fostering modernization plan and agreed to funding of £365,000 in the financial year 2018-19 followed by £1.2m in 2019-20 and £1.3m beyond that on an ongoing basis each year.
There is an inbuilt, unstated, assumption in that statement – namely that DCC has the funds to spare given that it habitually spends more than it takes in. We think it is assuming some savings resulting from presumed Local Authority reorganization in Dorset.
Carer B: part of the problem arose from a poor retention of new carers. The authority thought it had a recruitment problem but that was a faulty diagnosis. They were simply dreadful at retaining people it had cost a fortune to recruit and train in the basics.
The modernization plans, which will come into effect immediately, will focus on recruitment and retention, simplified fees and allowances schemes, and having specialist foster carers available to deal with complex needs.