The government has removed £3.2 million funding from scheme designed to improve social work practice in England.
This is because the Children's Improvement Board (CIB) who allocated the funding have had £8.5 million government funding removed, so the scheme is now likely to be scrapped.
The money was going to be used to set up set up a group of senior social workers in a Social Work Associate Practice (SWAP) who would be deployed to help improve frontline children's social work in English councils.
The SWAP programme was due to be its biggest investment for 2013-14 to help support local councils to:
- Improve social work practice in safeguarding and care;
- Provide a means for good social work practice to be shared on a systematic basis;
- Use secondments to share expertise and understanding across social work;
- Increase experience in peer support between councils.
The CIB was also due to fund 20 peer reviews of councils' safeguarding services, provide support on child sexual exploitation for councils affected by the problem and offer additional support to councils facing government intervention because of poor safeguarding performance.
The CIB is a partnership between the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (Solace), to help councils improve their performance in children's services.
As the government have removed £8.5 million funding from the parent project CIB to put the money into front line services, SWAP is now likely to be scrapped. The Department for Education have expected for councils to fill the funding gap, but loval government leaders say this is unlikely given that the councils' budgets have already been tightened and most are struggling.
CIB director Colin Hilton said it will be difficult to replace the work being done on such short notice:
We knew this funding was always going to be time limited but this announcement comes as a complete shock when we are already a week into the new financial year.
It leaves no time for contingency planning and puts at risk the good work carried out by the Children's Improvement Board in supporting councils to improve their children's services.
Such work needs to be adequately resourced and it is untenable to throw the full weight of this on councils which are already contending with government cuts to their budgets by a third.
A DfE spokesperson said:
The department always intended that its support would be time limited and that, in the longer term sector led improvement should mean “sector funded”. It is the responsibility of local government, working with delivery partners, to lead its own performance improvement and take individual and collective responsibility for achieving better outcomes for children.