Mid Wales

Powys children's services: 'Extreme concern' over funding

Boy sitting on a bench Image copyright Thinkstock

Millions of pounds of extra funding might be needed to help a troubled children's services department months after a damning report, says a panel.

About £6.1m has already been allocated to help Powys' children's services team after Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) warned children were at risk of harm.

Powys Council say an additional £3.2m could be needed along with a staffing spending review.

But it would be subject to a "rigorous assessment" before a decision is taken.

The council's cabinet also heard there had been positive feedback from inspectors to steps taken so far.

Image copyright Powys Council
Image caption Councillor Rachel Powell outlined new appointments which were being made

Councillor Rachel Powell, the cabinet member responsible for children's services, said since the report there had been encouraging steps forward, with the new director of social care who had made "fantastic progress".

"However it's clear we have much work to do," she said.

Councillor John Morris, chairman of the financial scrutiny panel said before any additional money was spent, it would need to be justified and rigorously assessed.

Last October, the CIW warned children were at risk of harm because of social services failures.

In April, Powys council was told it would still be subject to "close oversight" by Welsh Government ministers despite improvements.

The financial scrutiny panel's report highlights "the progress that is being made in improving the service", but also expresses "extreme concern" over the current budget.

The council sent a recovery plan to CIW, but the report says an "urgent review" is now needed.

The plan outlined a proposed £3.5m of spending on new posts, but the panel says it "does not demonstrate the impact or justification of the posts listed" and the number of jobs available and their roles are both unclear.

The report says the children's services budget in April 2017 was the second highest in Wales per "Looked After Children" and the budget has since been increased by 47%.

The report adds: "There seems to have been a lack of financial control during that period," and: "Finance has been a low priority in the perceived urgency with which the CIW Inspection report was dealt with".

The report also says the cabinet approved £4m in extra funding for services, but "this appeared to be done without a fully costed business plan".

The report states children's services in Powys are now "very well-funded" but now needs to demonstrate "value for money".

In March it was claimed high levels of staff leaving and sickness had left the service "unsustainable".

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