Social care overspends loom large in budget update

Accounts show budget is on track but highlights growing social care pressures

Piles of pound coins

Tough decisions helped to balance Leicestershire County Council’s books last year, in the face of £16m overspends in social care.
 
A new report, published today (Thursday), says that a combination of innovation, reducing service demand and tightening up financial controls is helping the authority weather the growing challenges facing local government.
 
The final budget position for the last 12 months shows that spiralling demand has pushed children and family services £12m over-budget and although reducing, shows adult social care spend exceeded its envelope by £3m.
 
It also reveals that:

  • Major service redesigns are bringing down costs - including teaming up with Barnardo’s to run children’s home locally, which is on track to save over £2m, and delivering adult social care packages differently, which is cutting spend by £3m 
  • Work to transform special educational needs and disabilities support has reduced costs - through better processes and reduced demand 
  • Steps to reduce costs last year have enabled the council to set aside £1m for flooding work over the next 12 months - to tackle some of the issues experienced this winter 

Our controlled approach to managing our finances is why we’re not under water. Let’s be clear, the pressure on local government is not shifting and starkly illustrated by our social care budgets being pushed £16m into the red.
 
We have a strong track record of innovation and high performance and we can see that delivering services differently is bringing down costs. Robust finance controls are also playing a part in keeping us on track, helping to save around £8m on salaries and £500k on travel costs alone.
 
“Our focus remains on protecting the core services that matter to people, whilst identifying savings as future uncertainties grow.

 
The 2023/24 accounts break down the spend against the council’s £512m budget, and its £139m capital pot. It includes:
 
Overspends:
•            Children and family services - £12m
•            Adults and communities - £3m, although reducing
•            Social care and SEND transport - £1.8m

Growing pressures:
•            The average weekly cost for children’s social care residential place has gone up by 20 per cent or £1,000 – to £5,800 
•            For children with complex needs, this rises to over £10,000 a week – or half-a-million-pounds a year
•            A 5 per cent rise in people needing home care, taking the total to 2,660 – costing an average of £328 a week for each resident 
•            28 more people moving into ‘supported living’ – an 8 per cent increase in placement costs equates to around £1,570 a week for each resident 
 
Projects reducing costs:
•            Special educational needs and disabilities - a new approach, balancing growing demand for support with getting children the right help, is reducing growing costs
•            Rolling out cheaper and more effective adult social care packages - saved £3m in the last 12 months
•            Recruiting more in-house foster carers – is due to save over £3m by 2025
•            Tighter finance controls have saved £8m on recruitment, £500k on travel and over £100k on training 
 
Investment
•            An extra £1m for flooding projects – to help roll out flood alleviation projects 
 
The report will be discussed by the council’s cabinet next Friday (24 May) – watch the meeting online 

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