Councillors on the Social Work Services Committee on February 21 heard that the latest forecast shows an estimated £760,000 budget pressure on Social Work Services for the current financial year. This is 0.9% of the overall budget for 2012/13. The Committee also examined the external report on the arrangements that had been in place to manage Social Work Services’ finances.
The external report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper LLP was critical of Social Work Services’ business planning and budget monitoring, citing a reliance on historical information as one of the main problems.
Chair of Social Work Services, Councillor Andy Ferguson said he welcomes the PWC report which is about the financial and business management processes in Social Work rather than frontline tasks. He also would emphasise that the social care delivered by this service is of a consistently high standard, at times exemplary, with particular areas of good practice being recognised nationally.
“The report is a very worthwhile piece of work. PWC has been constructively critical, providing a starting point and a direction. It is clear that it is essential to have early intelligence of changing needs and the ability to forecast where pressures will arise. The report has stimulated an informed debate because we were able to see the processes used in social work clearly. This proves the value of being open and transparent by publishing the report and action plan in full. I was pleased that we were able to get a consensus about the way forward following the discussion.”
Ferguson announced that Social Work now has a good, evidence-based action plan. Amongst the things agreed by Committee, it has agreed to ask the Chief Executive to set up an independent scrutiny group to monitor the progress; look at the structure of Social Work management; and engage appropriate professional support, reporting to the Head of Finance, to take action as is necessary without putting service users at risk in a needs-based budget, to bring the department’s revenue budget into recurring balance as quickly as possible.
“These measures are designed to give confidence to the public, staff, service users and our partners as we approach the integration of health and social care.”