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£600 Million Funding – Now Is The Time To Make The Case That A Child-centred Care System Is More Effective And Efficiency Than Cuts And Caps.

£600 million funding – now is the time to make the case that a child-centred care system is more effective and efficiency than cuts and caps.

£600 million funding for local authorities is a relief for all concerned from the stress that was being faced, by local authorities of cuts and rationing, and by providers of potential closure, of children with no home to meet their needs.

Government is clear it is not solution only a stop gap.

It is to relieve pressure. Look closer, the announcement also ties it to performance, productivity plans reduce wasteful spend.(see  Government announces a further £600 million boost for councils – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)).

This is the ground that child-centred thinkers and organisations need to be populating. Child-centred care system is more effective and efficiency than cuts and caps. The future of care cannot be left to financiers in government or outside. It is crucial that the values and systems are child-centred.

The reason for this is seen in the statement that accompanied the announcement.

The upcoming Budget will give the details on the distribution of the funding and will be included in the final Local Government Finance Settlement early next month. An expert panel will advise on the financial sustainability of local government to ensure value for money and sustainability of the sector.

The LGA recognise the funding will protect sign up to the services to vulnerable children. They also recognise the deal, “We will continue to work with Government to achieve a sustainable long term funding settlement and updated distribution mechanisms, as well as legislative reform where needed …” The CCN see the funding as “coupled with a comprehensive reform programme to bring in line the funding envelope available to enable us to deliver effectively our statutory responsibilities”.

Residential Child Care needs to read further. Government sees such ‘levelling up’ as a ‘sustainable financial footing’ through ‘expanding family help and targeted early intervention, expanding kinship care, and boosting the number of foster carers’. The relief that local authorities and providers feel today may not be realised in the forthcoming budget and finance settlement.

Now is the time that child-centred thinking has to be powerfully made. Actually, is allowing the mess.

The funding is an example of the “contingency theory” of decision making (Thompson and Tuden, 1959). Here the degree of uncertainty is connected to the extent of disagreement over trade-offs among important values—and the strategies appropriate for addressing those particular challenges. Depending on the attributes of the problem at hand, some strategies are suitable for solving it and others are not.

This is not a situation where the level of uncertainty inherent in a problem is low and there is a strong consensus on values, where decisions can be programmed. There are no pre-established rules that everyone recognises and abides by.

The funding is a bargaining response. The funding is a bargaining for change. It is a short-term response to the numbers of councils becoming unviable in order to make a long-term change in budget allocation and operation. It is behavioural economics in operation on a grand scale.

What confronts us is a ‘messy’ problem.

Messy, or poorly structured, problems are characterised by a very incomplete understanding of how options are linked to outcomes and by intense conflicts over values. In these situations, people are likely to disagree not only on what actions to take but also on what the results of those actions are likely to be and what constitutes progress.

Contingency theory advises us that the most likely action in this situation is the decision not to face the issue unless an innovation can be introduced.

The funding is unlikely to “solve” the problem but is does stop the situation from becoming intolerable. This might be called “kicking the can down the road” unless the unarticulated reform that the government proposes do not happen. There is nothing to think they will not happen.

That is why child-centred thinking has to be loud now.

The transformation of the currently ill-structured needs inspiration to become well-structured. This will only come through looking at the values and systems of the care system.

It is good that the Care Review has not been implemented. The Care review in this respect is inadequate and insufficient. It does not reach the parts that a review needs to reach. It could not begiven its remit of reduction in spending.

It can be agreed that fundamental reform is needed to fix the broken system. The list of policy priorities is long: improving staff pay and conditions, stabilising provision, addressing unmet need.

All of this is jeopardised if the focus lies only on the amount of money and not how it is directed.

It has to be directed to the meeting of need not the provision.

The care system has developed incrementally and never been planned. At best it plays catch up, reacting to reports, tragedies, as a result there are gaps in provision. The trajectory into care is highly uncertain, needs are not responded to in a universal way, thresholds are diverse as is provision. The system has always been dealing with uncertainty.

We have never had a method of knowing what needs are present and emerging. Being able to predict means investing in the provision we will need in 5 years time.

As we have not had this we have the situation we are in now, where increased levels of need are creating increased demand for provision stressing budgets. The market is a tool that might be applicable to a situation that is reactive but is has its limits and these are at the extremes of demand and supply, like high level needs where we see no very limited provision. This should have been seen as probable given a market mechanism.

A care system should not be reactive. It should be proactive. This surely is a lesson from Covid.

The lack of foresight is also to be held responsible for the budgetary mess. The market has been allowed to operate without parameters.

The National Audit Office has been sounding warnings for some years. It is these prior reports that are necessary careful reading not solely that issued in conjunction with the Care Review that had to make some conclusions within a defined request in line with the remit of the Care Review.

The NAO looks at financial efficiency and effectiveness. In its reports over the years, to paraphrase, it has signalled the same message as child-centred social care, effective and efficient spending in social care comes through the right child in the right place at the right time. This comes about through assessment. It comes about through a preoccupation with children’s needs, attunement of response to need.

It is this that needs to be at the top of the agenda for the reform discussions.

The way to financial sustainability is child-centred planning.

But at this time there is something more that is involved. It is an opportunity to look at the values that the care system actually operates.

Imagine a care system where Attachment was paramount.

The welfare principle is set out in Children 1989. It states that a child’s welfare is the paramount consideration in a decision about a child’s upbringing. It is also referred to as the ‘paramountcy principle‘.

A child’s needs have to be paramount in the forthcoming discussions. It is the primary task. It cannot be compromised.

Ensuring Attachment is necessary to be paramount.

Any reform needs to be focussed on the creation and sustaining of positive organisational cultures and increase relationship-based care to improve the quality of care.

It is essential that the care system can operate the paramountcy principle. It can do so only if Attachment is a core concept and practice.

It is the amount of funding that is present in the relationship that matters.

In the reform discussions here is the central question regarding children’s social care: if the available funds are reduced, what is the effect on the emotional resilience of care givers?

The reform discussions, knowing effectiveness and efficiency comes through meeting needs, need firstly to imagine a children’s services rooted In Attachment – How would it be different? How do we get there? Then think of the funding.

(See also NCERCC Appreciating Residential Child Care Workers as Attachment makers changes everything)

 

NCERCC