Sunderland children's service company could be given £4million cash injection in new budget

Sunderland's troubled children's services company Together for Children is set for a £4million cash injection as part of next year's budget proposals.

Thursday, 11th January 2018, 7:29 am
Updated Thursday, 11th January 2018, 10:00 am
Sunderland Civic Centre.

As of December, the company are forecasting a budget shortfall of £5.7m primarily as a result of increased numbers of looked after children over that provided for within the budget, and the continued use of agency social workers.

It comes after it was revealed last month that the council spent £7.7million on agency staff for children's services in the 2016/17 financial year. The was defended as being part of its efforts to raise standards.

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The reported stated: "The Board are seeking mitigating actions to minimise the impact of the pressures both in year and on-going.

"Additional officer support and challenge has been provided by the council in response to the latest forecast position.

"However, at this stage it is anticipated an additional financial contribution will be required both in-year and on-going.

"It is proposed that additional contract funding of £4m is provided on an ongoing basis from 1 April 2018/2019 to enable the company to rebase their budget, taking into account additional demand in looked after children numbers in both 2017/2018 and to provide for additional demand in 2018/2019.

"The Council will be working intensively with the Company during the last quarter of 2017/18 to carry out extensive due diligence on the increased forecast, and to develop an action plan that will allow the Company to operate within a sustainable funding envelope that is affordable."

Alex Hopkins, the man brought in to lead the turnaround of the service after 2015's Ofsted fiasco, resigned late last year.

The watchdog rated the department and the authority’s safeguarding section as ‘inadequate’ in a report issued in July 2015.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet later agreed to establish a company to deliver children’s services on their behalf, with Alex Hopkins leading the organisation Together for Children.