Thursday, August 28, 2014

Were Rotherham Council Child Services cash-strapped?

One factor in the Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) scandal is under-resourcing of the Councils Social Services Department. 

Dotted throughout the Jay Report  are references discreetly mentioning under-funding.

Section 12 of the Report says

...From the early 2000s, Rotherham started to experience problems in the recruitment of social workers, whilst facing budgetary pressures, high levels of demand, and increasing complexity of work, including CSE. 2008 the vacancy rate was at its worst at 43%.

...2009, it was in excess of 37% of the establishment posts and more than one in every two team manager posts was also vacant. Both social worker and manager unfilled posts were covered by agency staff, with the additional expense and other difficulties this created.

12.10 c) the Council had progressively increased its children's social care budget compared with the Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) but the percentage expenditure was still below the England average, placing Rotherham third lowest in its comparator group; and
d) gross expenditure on looked after children was just above the national average but the numbers of LAC were some 26% above the national average.

12.13 The combined effect of changes to local authority funding in England has been a dramatic reduction in resources available to Rotherham and neighbouring Councils. By 2016, Rotherham will have lost 33% of its spending power in real terms compared to 2010/11. The comparison for the whole of England is a reduction of 20%, and for a Council like Buckinghamshire, only 4.5% reduction. These figures highlight the extreme pressure that reductions in public spending are placing on Councils such as Rotherham, which is faced with high demands for vulnerable children and families’ services, associated with significant levels of poverty and deprivation.

12.17 In the four years to 2013/4, [Rotherham] went from having the lowest spend (£406 per child) to being at the median of the group (£604 per child). 

13.2 [Chief Executives said] the Council rarely had enough resources to meet the needs of its population; 

Sect 6: there are currently insufficient resources in the team to meet all the demands made on it, and the team is unable to provide enough preventive input to sustain children after they have been exploited. 

Recommendation 7: The Council, together with the Police, should review the social 
care resources available to the CSE team, and make sure these are consistent with 
the need and demand for services.   

There is more, but these excerpts demonstrate that lack of financial resources contributed to the mismanagement of the CSE in Rotherham. It is the case that the Jay Report was looking at the period 19967-13, when the Labour Government was in power, but it is also the case that present Coalition policies are designed to make under-funding worse.  Councils in the 10 most deprived areas of England are facing cuts averaging 25.3% in the financial years 2010-11 to 2015-16, compared with 2.54% in the 10 least deprived areas.

These Coalition cuts can only make future child exploitation failures worse.

The stock answer of Tories will be "You want to solve the problem by just throwing money at it". It is just that - as stock answer. Money converts into adequate numbers of people working on a job. It is ridiculous that Tories argue that if we do not pay chief executives obscene salaries, they will take themselves elsewhere, yet in the next breath, they argue that social work departments do not need adequate resources.

Sure, there is always a need to look into better ways of working, and to reduce the social dis-ease that generates dysfunctional families and rapists by increasing equality, but the fact remains: under-resourcing of social services was a factor in Rotherham, and Tory policies are designed to make more Rotherhams happen in future.

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