12:21PM, Friday 31 January 2020
Slough Children’s Services Trust could receive a £1.6million funding boost from the council’s proposed budget for 2020/21 but concerns have been raised about the organisation’s sustainability.
The trust, which operates independently from the council, is forecast to overspend by £1.15m in 2019/20.
Its total budget for next year, including the £1.6m boost is £29m.
It also owes the local authority £4m from a start-up loan it received in 2015 when it was set up to run children’s services instead of the council.
Its contract to provide social care and support services to children, young people and families in Slough is due to expire in October 2021.
But council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) said at a budget briefing on Tuesday he has concerns about the service’s sustainability.
Cllr Swindlehurst added: “We have to recognise we did not improve the service speedily enough to escape the attentions of the government and the government quite rightly wants assurance that children will be well looked after and safe.
“The trust is now generously funded to £10m more than our services enjoyed and it has managed to get back to a place where it has made an improvement.
“Our concern is not so much about the service that the trust is providing but about the levels of financial surety for that service and its sustainability.”
The trust, which is funded by the council and the Department for Education, received a ‘requires improvement’ rating following its latest Ofsted inspection in January 2019.
Inspectors said ‘significant progress’ had been made since children’s services in the borough were rated inadequate in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
A spokesman for Slough Children’s Services Trust said: “Like many children’s service providers, including those in local authorities, Slough Children’s Services Trust is facing significant financial challenges.
“This follows unprecedented increases in demand to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and families in Slough and we are consistently meeting more children’s statutory needs at a consistently improved quality of service.
“The trust is highly mindful of spending public money and we take all measures to maximise our limited resources for vulnerable children.
“We are pleased that our partner, Slough Borough Council, has recognised the need to deliver statutory services to children by providing further funding.
“Despite the financial challenges, we are still delivering better outcomes, as shown by a recent independent survey which suggested that 94 per cent of Slough’s children in care felt their lives were improving.”
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