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Sustainability of children’s social services at risk if grant funding dries up

05 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Photo Liam McBurney PA Wire

Elgan HearnLocal Democracy Reporter

The potential loss of grant funding at the end of March 2025 has raised fears that jobs will be lost and put an extra strain on Children’s Social Services which is already working at “maximum capacity”.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s People Scrutiny committee on Tuesday, July 2 councillors received a report on Social Services safeguarding performance covering a six month period from October 2023 to the end of this March.

Information in the report explained that Children’s Social Services referral rates had increased by 22 per cent with 4,478 referrals recorded compared to 3,670 between October and March 2022/2023.

Isolation

Councillors were told that the increase of referrals is not happening to Blaenau Gwent “in isolation” with the pattern being seen all across Wales.

Cllr Sonia Behr said: “I notice the increase in referrals but no change in staffing.

“How are you coping with this?”

Children’s Services manager Loredana Moruz said: “Unfortunately we have not had an increase in our workforce and even worse I would suggest, due to the financial constraints and the savings we’ve had to reduce capacity in some of the teams.”

She wanted councillors to understand that they are working “at maximum capacity at the moment.”

Ms Moruz said: “When we have had grant funding for projects from Welsh Government we have invested in those teams where we needed to increase capacity, new posts and jobs.

“The issue is that the Radical Reform grant comes to an end, so the risk is the sustainability of our services.”

This grant funds the Information Advice and Assistance (IAA) team which is the first port of call to process referrals.

The loss of this grant had raised the question on how the department would function after March next year.

This poses a risk to the council which could be “escalated” onto its risk register explained Ms Moruz.

Pressure

Ms Moruz said: “It’s not the only grant that is ending in Children’s Services we have RIF as well (Regional Integrated Funding) but that is available until 2027.

“In the current financial climate, it is a worry for us.

“There is more and more pressure on our staff, and we are not in a position to cut more jobs, it would be almost impossible to protect our vulnerable children in Blaenau Gwent.”

She believed that three roles were at risk with the loss or the radical reform grant.

“I want to be optimistic and say we will find solutions,” said Ms Moruz.

Cllr David Wilkshire asked how the department were coping with the increased workloads especially without recruiting more staff.

Cllr Wilkshire said: “I’m concerned the caseloads will be too much for you and things slip the net.”

Ms Moruz said that the council doesn’t want to use expensive agency staff but that being a small local authority had its advantages as teams can help each other out.

Ms Moruz said: “Very recently our north locality team had two social workers off sick at the same time and another one had her Mum pass away so suddenly they had lost half their capacity.”

She explained that the team manager had picked up cases and other teams in other parts of the county borough who had “capacity” were brought in to help share the workload.

Ms Moruz said: “Everyone pulls together, it’s not ideal but I can give assurance we are not missing any statutory requirements, we make it work at the moment.”

Committee chairman, Cllr Tommy Smith wanted the committee to receive more detail to understand staff capacity and grant funding issues to come to a future meeting.


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