As promised, we’re now publishing more detailed information about the first of our large service areas – children and young people – showing how much we spend, where the money comes from, what some of the major trends and pressures are, and how our spending compares with other comparable areas.
How much do we spend on services for children and young people, and where does this money come from?
Overall each year we spend over £345 million – although most of this money passes through the Council directly to schools for them to spend.
Of this, £246m is received from the Government’s Department for Education as ring-fenced grants (which we pass straight on to schools).
£8.2m is received from the Young People’s Learning Agency for post-16 education – which again, we pass straight to schools with sixth forms.
The funds raised and spent by Bristol City Council amount to £83.6m*.
(*This figure includes a fund called the Area Based Grant, but excludes accounting adjustments for capital charges. The rest of the £345m comes from various other grants, fees and charges.)
How do we spend this £83.6 million?
What issues and spending pressures are we facing?
The largest single spending challenge for us this year is the financial impact of the Laming Review of Child Protection, following the tragic death of Baby Peter in North London. To comply with this national review, we have recruited a further 8 social workers and other specialist staff, and we’re working hard to recruit and retain the best staff across the board in this service area. This is costing us an extra £450,000 this year – on top of the extra £250,000 we allocated last year to this extremely important area.
The recent Ofsted inspection of safeguarding rated Bristol’s service provision in this area as ‘good’. We are the first large city to receive this high score, and it underlines how important we think it is to make sure that young people are safeguarded.
We are also facing real pressure because the number of care placements (such as children placed into foster care, or children with complex special needs) has also increased from a low of around 800 in January 2009 to a high of over 900 by the end of last year. Each care placement is costly, but of course our first consideration is the safety of the child.
How does Bristol’s spending compare with other similar councils?
When it comes to how much we spend on different service areas, it is often possible to compare how much money Bristol spends against other similar councils. For example, the comparative spend on safeguarding services shows:
As you can see, the table above shows expenditure (per head of those aged 0-17) in Bristol ranks 5th lowest out of 11 statistical neighbours and the 2nd lowest of the core cities. This shows that we are already spending less than average on safeguarding – just over half as much as some others – whilst still providing services at a ‘good’ level as determined by the recent Ofsted inspection.
The second table above shows expenditure (at £208 per head of state sector school pupils) ranks Bristol 4th lowest out of 11 statistical neighbours for total expenditure on central education functions.
Bristol’s spending level on school improvement work (at £78 per state sector pupil) was deliberately increased because we wanted to focus resources onto improving educational achievement standards in the city – though is still only the third highest of these 11 comparable councils.
Bristol is a relatively high spender on asset management and supply of school places because it is a ‘path-finder’ authority for Building Schools for the Future. All the secondary schools will have been rebuilt and modernisation of some primary schools has begun.
What are we already doing to make our money stretch even further?
We’re already working hard to get the best value for money, including:
- ‘invest to save’ activities focusing on children on the edge of care in order to avoid expensive care placements
- a project to recruit more ‘in-house’ foster carers, in particular to secure in-house placements for sibling groups, which will have the effect of reducing the cost of care placements,
- robust commissioning processes for independent foster placements
- use of social work assistants to allow social workers to focus on ‘front line’ services
- a review of agency staff
The recent Ofsted inspection of safeguarding also rated Bristol as providing good value for money in this area – though we are not complacent, and are always striving to make our money go even further.
Please give us your ideas and suggestions
We hope you’ll find this useful in helping you give us your thoughts and ideas around our four big questions:
- Which services, if any, should we consider delivering at a reduced level or even ceasing altogether?
- Which services might be better provided by other bodies, such as the voluntary sector, or with others, such as the NHS or neighbouring councils?
- Do you have any other ideas based on your experience for service areas where we could further explore saving money?
- Are there any service areas from which we should aim to raise more income?
Leave a comment below for the public conversation.
If you prefer to make a private submission of your views, please click here.