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Meredith Teasdale

NCASC guest blogpost – Meredith Teasdale, Cornwall Council

Guest blogpost written by Meredith Teasdale, Strategic Director – Together for Families at Cornwall Council

Yesterday I attended the ‘Children’s Services – Funding issues’ webinar at NCASC; here are my reflections on the session.

On the additional costs of Covid and the increased complexity of need, the message from central government appears to be ‘we have already given local authorities money to deal with this’. However, my perspective is that it does not feel like that within local government after our years of austerity and continued reductions in budgets and then services. Whilst our message of increased costs and complexity of need has been acknowledged in some quarters, in does not appear to be landing well with the Treasury. The need for us to define both what greater complexity of need means and how that relates to additional costs – alongside with the extra costs from Covid – is ever more apparent.

During the session I reflected that as DCSs we need to be fully prepared with our message before the Budget next year – how can we convince the Treasury they will get more bang for their buck?  Is there a way of getting a better, more evidenced-based argument about the impact of preventative services in reducing costs and need? For many years the arguments for increased prevention have fallen on deaf ears in Whitehall and this was reflected in the conversation at Conference. Work is taking place through ADCS, but the challenge will be how we get the message heard and acted on.

We need a clear message which is pithy, short, evidenced-based and which as a system we can get behind – which means a message supported not just by DCSs but also by CCGs, PCC, schools and MATs.

It should be acknowledged that additional money has come through to schools, although the impact it has on the ground does vary considerably depending on geography and the context faced by individual schools. Additional funding to support the needs of children is still required, and must be linked to (and build on) the recent work undertaken on the educational needs of our most vulnerable children. How do we ensure these children are attending school, not excluded, not hungry and accessing the same opportunities and attainment as their peers? How do we deliver on the commitment of social mobility? This needs a steer from DfE as well from the conversations taking place in local areas.

My view is that there needs to be a whole system, place-based approach which ensures that the right funding is in the right place and is having the right positive impact. Again, this needs cross-departmental support. This type of approach would reinforce the interconnectivity of our impact across our system on children and young people’s lives.

A panellist at the session also pushed for a joined-up children’s department, although that will always be difficult when we know that parents and carers are the greatest influencers on a child’s life.  At present the economic hardship that is being faced by families is not helped by disjointed funding channelled by different funding streams.  We need a commitment to understanding the totality of funding available in a place in order to make a positive difference to children and young people’s lives, and prevent quality and quantity of life from regressing (the current projection from the Marmot Review). We need to get better at making the most of our funding focused on children, as well as at ensuring that there is more money available to us to reduce child poverty, increase social mobility and ensure that the hopes and dreams of our children are realised.

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