A public consultation has been launched on proposals to fund a £5.5m redirection of cash to children’s services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
If approved, the proposals will allow the city council to prioritise significant ‘investment in children’ in the city now and in future years, following an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted earlier this year.
The council is making the proposals after seeing unprecedented demand for children’s social care services, with the number of children in care increasing to 890 in recent months. This is the equivalent of 200 more children in care than similar-sized councils with the same social and economic profile.
The consultation, which is underway until 25 September, proposes a range of measures, including:
- Transformation of services with a view to delivering even more effectively and efficiently.
- Controls on all non-essential spending on areas such as recruitment and travel.
- Reviewing contracts and continuing to identify alternative funding sources and additional income.
- Review of landscaping maintenance.
The proposals build on a budget which already sees £17m in efficiency savings being made in 2019/20 and £194m of savings made across the city council in the last eight years.
The authority is also facing rising demand in support for services for older people with the number of residents aged over 70 due to grow by 43 per cent in the next 20 years and numbers increasing by eight per cent in the last three years. In addition, Stoke-on-Trent has the highest rate of 18 to 64 year olds with learning disabilities in residential or nursing care across the West Midlands, at 132 per 100,000 compared to 78 regionally and 73 nationally. As with older adults, adults with learning disabilities are living longer and needs are becoming more complex.
Conservative Council leader Abi Brown said: “The recent Ofsted inspection highlighted the urgent need to make children’s services and protecting our vulnerable young people our number one priority. From day one of our administration, we have been clear that this will be our main focus. As a cabinet, we are committed to ensuring that improvement and investment in children’s services go hand in hand, and these mid-year proposals will allow us to re-direct necessary funding so that we can make this happen.”