This year, IMPOWER facilitated a session at the Society of County Treasurers’ Spring Seminar alongside its president, Michael Hudson. Our session addressed the main challenges facing children’s social care, and left attendees feeling optimistic and empowered to make a positive change.
Before the session, we asked attendees to share their biggest challenges. The top three (not surprisingly) were:
- Cost pressures relating to children’s social care
- Workforce challenges
- Challenges with sufficiency and engagement with the care market
The size of the challenge around cost pressures is significant:
- 81% of those present reported often experiencing budgetary overspends on children’s social care
- 74% of authorities have overspent by more than £2 million
- 51% of attendees are confident their authority will achieve medium-term trajectories
- Only 1 authority believes care placements offer value for money
These findings align with national trends. The number of children in care has increased by 21% over the last 10 years for county councils and the costs of private providers have risen sharply. The majority of authorities (56%) have seen a significant increase in out-of-county placements in the last 10 years and 70% have witnessed a significant rise in the use of unregulated placements. But we know this overspend isn’t leading to improved outcomes for children.
Reducing the utilisation of out-of-county or unregulated placements is not a simple fix. While we have seen countless examples of creative innovation within the sector, resetting ways of working with providers is trickier but it’s not impossible. We support clients to deliver complex change using our tried and tested EDGEWORK® theory of change and we believe that the best starting point is a clear ambition.
The IMPOWER Index, a benchmarking tool which combines cost and outcomes data, shows us that some counties are delivering more for less within children’s social care. Whilst we recognise this is influenced by demographic, population and other long-standing factors, there is evidence that working differently can improve outcomes. Better outcomes really can cost less.