IT WILL cost up to £4 million to improve the state of the Children’s Services Department in the wake of a damning report.
Finance portfolio holder Cllr Aled Davies said he was confident that the money could be found as the authority had expected a worse budget settlement from the Welsh Government.
But at the full council meeting in Llandrindod Wells opposition councillors claimed that this and “determination to make cuts” as part of the austerity agenda had been part of the problem.
Cllr Mathew Dorrance (Brecon St John) said: “There’s been a stalking determination to deliver cuts.
“In 2015/16, the service was going well.
“We need the full disclosure of costing details and know where the money is coming from.
“Monthly reports need to be made available to every member to ensure proper scrutiny to drive the improvement forward.”
Both Council Leader, Rosemarie Harris, and cabinet member for children’s services, Rachel Powell, made statements at the meeting apologising for the report and accepting all of the CSSIW’s recommendations.
Chief executive Jeremy Patterson told councillors that the authority had already submitted a draft improvement plan and an improvement board had been established.
These changes all needed to happen within 20 days of the full council meeting (Thursday, October 19) to comply with the report recommendations.
Mr Patterson, said: “The actions we have taken are bearing fruit.”
Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, said: “The settlement is not as bad as we expected, there are sufficient resources to rebuild the department, making it a sustainable service.”
When asked if money was being taken from the education department’s budget, cabinet member Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, robustly replied that money would not be “stripped out of schools”.
Filling up vacant roles would be part of the process of rebuilding the Child Services department.
New head of service, David Johnson, said: “It’s a big issue, right across the country, there is a shortage of qualified and experienced social workers. We are doing what we can to ensure those children that are referred to us are being responded to as quick as possible.
“I’m glad to hear the positive reinforcement for the workforce, they are feeling beleaguered.”
Mr Johnson added that making Powys a “desirable place to come to work and live,” would go a long way to help recruit the social workers needed to ensure the department recovered.
He also challenged all councillors to recruit one foster carer as they were the experts in knowing their own community.
Mr Johnson added that if councillors spent time with the social services teams: “if you have direct access to the staff they can say, there’s the pressure, your involvement will make the staff feel appreciated.”
See full story in the County Times