I have been following the coverage in the Advertiser closely this week as the paper has been shining a light on an unheralded area of the Council.
Every day the paper has been focusing on our Children’s Services to highlight the challenges we face in protecting children and vulnerable young people.
Children’s Services, and indeed our adults’ services, often do not touch the lives of many residents. Every year, we as councillors, try to explain to residents that the vast majority of their council tax is spent on providing such services, rather the ones they see every day.
£27m a year spent on Children’s Services
We spend approximately £27m a year on Children’s Services with some £12m alone going on social care placements. It is a huge amount of money and I must pay tribute to my Cabinet colleague Cllr Foley, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and School Attainment, and her team of officers for continuing to work within the challenging financial climate we currently face, while at the same time balancing the care needs of the children that need our support the most.
As a former Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, I know the outstanding work that goes on behind the scenes in the department. The team provide care for disabled children, provide respite care and support for parents, not to mention youth offending services, a range of health services and educational welfare and psychology support.
On top of that we have a Family Nurse Partnership programme, youth engagement workers, our fantastic fostering and adoption team and hardworking colleagues who dedicate their lives to provide safeguarding services to children and young people in Swindon.
12,000 children a year given some support
Our staff work with thousands of children each year. Last year about 12,000 children in the borough received some kind of support from the service as a whole, which includes around 3,600 children with disabilities
At any one time the Council will need to provide support to around 310 ‘looked after’ children, while 260 children will also be subject to child protection plans. Our Multi Agency safeguarding Hub (MASH) will receive about 12,000 calls because of worries about a child and, of these, about 3,000 go on to be referred to social workers.
The team go the extra mile to ensure children and young people are safe and I would encourage you to read the Advertiser’s excellent coverage this week to see how your council tax is helping some of our most vulnerable residents.
This week I attended the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Annual Conference in Birmingham and one of the important subjects that was addressed was the increased strain on local authority finances. I was pleased to hear LGA chairman Lord Porter calling on councils to be put at the front of the queue for new funding, while the need for councils to keep all of the business rates they collect was high on the agenda.
In order to keep pace with demand on our children’s and adults’ services we need to look at how we increase our funding levels. Our vulnerable adults and children are counting on it.