Bearing in mind the low level of settlement we receive here at Wokingham Borough Council I am extremely concerned at the high level of overspend that has accrued in the Peoples Services area this financial year. Can you advise how an overspend of £1.332M (made up of £771k in Adult Services and £496K in Children's Services) has been allowed to happen, the majority of which seems to have happened, or has been identified more recently? I sincerely hope this was not anything to do with the recent issues we had in this Department!
The overspend for People Services of £1.267m relates predominantly to pressures in adult social care packages, agency staffing across social care, central services, and home to school transport as we have discussed already.
Improved and strengthened financial controls are now being deployed across this service, such as operational forums, to ensure that Wokingham residents are provided with resources and personal budgets at the appropriate level to balance risk and outcomes, whilst the Council and our partners deliver on wider system targets such as Delayed Transfers of Care (DTOC).
Activity within the service, such as the number of older people admitted to long term care home settings, is delivering well against strategic targets when compared to the practice regionally. However, local price pressures mean that spend continues to outstrip available resources. Recent residential care home placements made are at around 20% higher than those leaving similar placements during the same period in the previous year.
Whilst a co-ordinated approach to reviewing contract inflation requests from providers was taken forward earlier in this financial year, a number of organisations raised further funding concerns, that resulted in a movement to the forecast. Most significantly, the impact of applying the national living wage to sleep-in support has created a pressure to something over £300k to this Council.
Agency spend in the current financial year includes transitional senior management team arrangements and operational pressures such as support for newly qualified social workers and a considerable local increase in child protection referrals.
A review of all ongoing posts has been undertaken to ensure business criticality can be evidenced, and an enhanced approval process has been established to review all future requests across the Directorate.
The People Services Leadership Team has implemented a co-ordinated recovery plan to ensure that financial controls are kept under close review and all ongoing service decisions are risk assessed and taken in the context of the current financial position. This will be the subject of high level accountability and oversight being led by the Leader, the CEO and Lead Member in addition to the Director of People Services.
The budget pressures identified in the year will inform the budget proposals to go before full Council in February 2018.
What measures are you going to put in place to prevent such a large figure occurring again?
When we have expensive placements where we have the decision by the courts to grant national living wage for sleep-in they are things that we just could not have predicted would actually happen. So everything else that we have got we are ahead of the curve but we have had more expensive placements within the Borough and it is well documented that where we do take over the responsibility for someone when they have run out of money, when they are in a privately funded care home and they now come under our control whether they are in their late 70s or 80s, the outcomes of moving them are not good. So we have to balance that between the Council’s budgets and we want to save money versus the outcomes to them. So it is constantly under review but it will be a continued pressure.