Where has all the money gone?

THE way the council monitors the cost of children in care has come in for criticism from auditors.

They have discovered that most payments for those housed outside Calderdale “cannot be verified” due to a lack of formal agreements.

And the problem has been going on for years.

In response, the children’s social care spokeswoman Megan Swift, said: “Some progress has been made but I am disappointed that it has not been completed sooner.”

An Ofsted inspection in 2009 and a report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, commissioned by Calderdale Council, identified serious and long-standing problems with children’s social care services.

“The priority since then has been to act decisively to ensure that every child identified as being at risk is assessed accurately and quickly, allocated a social worker, and receives the care and support required. This is the most important area of work,” said Coun Swift (Lab, Town).

Auditors warned in June that systems were “weak” and that previous recommendations had not been followed-up.

Councillor Swift said that as soon as she became aware she asked officers to make sure that all the recommendations were acted upon.

Calderdale Council Audit Committee will get an update next month.

The council currently pays for 36 young people to be looked after in specialist residential or educational centres outside Calderdale - it has no control over the numbers but picks up the bill which runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

According to the auditors, monitoring is weak “primarily due to the lack of robust information provided by social workers in order for contracts to be formulated.”

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines (Northowram and Shelf) said: “My fear is that we are not looking properly after taxpayers’ money - I am worried about the lack of financial control that seems to be in place.”