Chris Mahony 23 January 2019

Auditors bid to explain real cause of difference in councils' spend on kids

Auditors bid to explain real cause of difference in councils spend on kids image

A nine-fold variation in spending on children’s social care could largely be down to ‘differences in characteristics’ between councils, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) study.

The NAO report found that around 44% of the spending variation between councils could be explained by local characteristics such as custom and practice, local market conditions and historical patterns of demand.

It suggested that deprivation might explain another 15% and national policy changes or ‘shocks’ – such as the high profile death of a child – 10%.

Geography was not found to be an influence.

Around a quarter of the variation was unaccounted for by the factors identified by the NAO study.

The NAO found no link between a council’s spending and its Ofsted rating, with spending by services rated ‘good’ ranging from £570 per head to nearly £5,000.

With the number of child protection assessments having surged by 77% in seven years and many children’s services departments grappling with overspends, head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, questioned whether the Government would be able to meet its 2022 target of ensuring all vulnerable children received good support regardless of where they live.

Sir Amyas said: ‘The Department [for Education] has started to build its understanding of variations in services but it should know more than it does.

'Even with this understanding, the department faces a tall order to achieve its goal within three years.’

The NAO report urged the department ‘to promptly improve’ its understanding of children’s social care.

Chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, said: ‘There is no right amount for councils to spend on children’s services and, as our own research has found, the majority of spend variation is due to wider economic or geographic circumstances largely outside their control.’

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) warned that cuts to preventive services have generated expensive spending downstream – despite the study finding no link between Sure Start closures and a rise in child protection cases.

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Co-ordinators

Buckinghamshire Council
£30,874 - £37,188 per annum
Interested in a career as an EHC Coordinator? Come along to our drop-in event to meet members of the SEND team and find out more about the role! England, Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury
Recuriter: Buckinghamshire Council

ASC Occupational Therapist - Early Intervention Team

Essex County Council
£30300 - £41425 per annum
Essex County Council (ECC) is one of the largest and most dynamic local authorities in the UK, serving a population of 2 million residents, and has a England, Essex, Clacton-On-Sea
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Supervising Social Worker - Fostering Team

Essex County Council
£30300 - £41425 per annum + Excellent Benefits Package
What you'll need to join our Fostering team
Recuriter: Essex County Council

ASC Senior Social Worker/Occupational Therapist

Essex County Council
£38400 - £46475 per annum
ECC is transforming to be far more proactive and our new model centres on a transformational shift from focussing on long term care and support to ear England, Essex, Colchester
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Ecological Consultant

Essex County Council
£22000 - £25000 per annum
Closing date
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Local Government News

Latest issue - Local Goverrnemnt News

This issue of Local Government News explores how councils can tackle modern slavery and trafficking in their supply chains, finds out more about Cambridge's first cohousing scheme and the launch of a new project to build a shared service pattern library for local government.

This issue also contains a special focus on children's services and how councils are protecting children following local safeguarding children boards being abolished.

Register for your free magazine