To receive a presentation.
The Director of Commissioning and Improvement gave a presentation to the Committee which included an introduction to the Council’s obligations on provision as part of its statutory service.
The Committee was informed that there had been a rise in budget versus spending gap between 2015-2018, with a £3million over spend in 2017/2018 which was attributed to the following external factors:
- Increase in children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP).
- Increase in complexity of needs of children.
- Increase in children travelling across and outside of the Borough.
Officers informed the Committee that this was a regional problem, 26 out of 30 boroughs had experienced a budget overspend on SEN transport in 2016/2017. Croydon had been managing a portfolio of increase demand on services of 14.3% with increased costs of 19.1% against a budget reduction of £1.548million in 16/17 and 17/18. There had been a 40% increase in children with EHCP in the last three years and there had been tangible progress made in reduction of costs against increase of service users.
In order to maintain control and manage the risks associated with spending, the department had put in place strategies to address areas of focus which included:
- Working effectively with families
- Partnership with finance and robust financial monitoring
- Integrated working with adult social care
- Robust governance arrangements
- Working effectively with colleagues in Special Education Needs Department (SEND)
- Alternative travel arrangements
Future strategies had been put in place to increase control including:
- Continued review of travel policy
- Continued integration and partnership working across services
- Increased focus and review of high cost routes
Members questioned the work that had been carried out in the last three years to ensure that children with SEN are educated in the borough and the facilities available to families. Officers responded that there had been an increase in classroom provision in special schools and there was an ongoing programme for expansion of schools. There would be a free school opening in 2019 with 100 places for children with Autism. There was also a bid that had been put in to Croydon College to expand its facilities for 16-19 year olds.
In response to Members’ queries on savings that had been made and what was being done to maintain the use of local provision, officers advised the Committee that there was a constant review of service providers to ensure that the best local provision was utilised. There had also been a mitigation of £1million per year through savings and efficiencies.
The Committee queried the model for reduction of financial risks. Officers informed Members that all Councils were working together to discuss the impact of government funding issues and how to manage the situation. It was acknowledged that it was problematic to develop working together as the needs of families were localised and individual to each borough. There was extensive work being carried out to encourage independence through the use of personal travel budgets, independent travel training and assisted technology.
The Committee Members commented that they would welcome detailed information on savings made.