The Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Darren Rodwell has today called for fairer funding for the borough following the publication of Ofsted’s inspection of its children’s services.
Responding to the publication, Cllr Rodwell said: “Ofsted’s findings are a huge endorsement of our journey of improving outcomes for children. However, they do not consider our uniquely challenging circumstances, and this is the elephant in the room.
“Barking & Dagenham is one of the fastest changing communities in the country and has been for years. We have 20,000 more children today than 10 years ago, with the highest number of children under 16 in England and Wales. On top of this we have rising demand, rising need, and rising costs, largely because of the cost of placements, the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis.
“This has had a huge impact on our children’s social care services and our funding has simply failed to keep pace.”
“Our figures speak for themselves. We have some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country. 1 in 8 of our families are led by a single parent, and 12,000 of our children are eligible for free school meals. However, we are allocated on average £1,495(*) to spend on social care per child while more affluent London boroughs receive up to £1,000 more.”
Cllr Rodwell added, “A significant proportion of the council’s budget is allocated to children’s services. We want to do the best for our borough’s children, but we cannot do this with one hand tied behind our back.
"Ofsted’s report is very complimentary about the leadership, staff and partners of our children’s services, but it is silent when it comes to the resources we need. This needs to be addressed by government.”
Cllr Rodwell, further added “I am proud and grateful to the staff that choose to work in such a challenging borough who despite the lack of appropriate funding, deliver their day-to-day job with commitment, compassion and dedication keeping some of the most vulnerable children in the country, safe, stable and secure.”
Ofsted said in their report that ‘Children’s leaders have an understanding of service strengths and weaknesses. They have instigated and invested in a number of innovations. They have taken action to increase social work capacity, to help manage demand and give workers more time for direct support for children and families. They have addressed some of the areas for improvement identified at the last inspection, including engagement from the multi-agency partnership, responses to episodes of going missing from care and planning for children placed with their parents under a care order. They have continued to build effective support for children at risk of extra-familial harm and for care leavers.’
The council is now working on an action plan addressing the issues raised by the inspectors.