Report of Corporate Director for People
Councillor Barnard, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Schools, introduced the report.
Katy Ball, Director for Commissioning and Partnerships, presented the report, which detailed proposals for placement fee levels in 2023/24 across externally commissioned children’s care placements, including children's residential care homes and foster care placements.
Ms Ball stated the following:
(a) the Council has a statutory duty to ensure there is sufficient accommodation for its looked after children and young people which meets their needs in its authority area (section 22G of the Children Act 1989 ‘the sufficiency duty’), balanced against budget commitments and pressures for the Council;
(b) Nottingham City Council is part of several pan-Local Authority framework agreements in addition to contracting children’s placements in its own right;
(c) whilst placement fee levels are reviewed on an annual basis, due to the current unprecedented economic climate, the annual inflationary increase was expected to exceed that ordinarily applied and was subject to council discretion.
(1) approve the fee levels for Children’s Care Placements as detailed in the exempt appendix;
(2) delegate authority to the Director for Children’s Integrated Services to agree fee levels in accordance with the exempt appendix, subject to the outcome of further engagement and in line with the Council budget, and, subject to engagement and resolution 4 below, implement the fee levels from April 2023;
(3) approve the total spend of up to £2,985,872, including approval to spend against high-cost placement provision through the Council’s scheme of delegation for Children’s Care Packages;
(4) note that:
(i) agreement was subject to final approval of the 2023/24 budget at the Full Council meeting being held on 06 March 2023;
(ii) if, after completion of further engagement with relevant parties, the financial impact of any revised proposals exceeds the budget available, further approval from the appropriate Committee would be sought.
Reasons for recommendations
(a) Nottingham City Council considers the fee levels for children’s care placements on an annual basis, and in doing so will take account of a number of factors, within the context of the wider financial position of the Council.
(b) The Council has a statutory duty to ensure there is sufficient accommodation for its looked after children and young people which meets their needs in its authority area (section 22G of the Children Act 1989 ‘the sufficiency duty’), balanced against budget commitments and pressures for the Council.
(c) Where the Council is party to pan-local authority frameworks, there must be engagement with local authorities party to these framework agreements. Where the outcome of these discussions require consideration of significant change to the financial consequence of these proposals (with due regard given to the available budget) a further report will be presented through the appropriate governance process.
(d) These proposals and the associated financial modelling are based on information currently available about service utilisation and demand.
(e) The recommendations presented take account of the implications of inflationary pressures on the children’s placements market and aim to represent a fair allocation of funding and to support the market across all service areas. The proposals seek to support a sustainable, efficient, and effective market within the available resources.
Other options considered
(a) Do nothing. Due to under-capacity in the children’s placements market and economic pressures, taking no action risks providers not offering placements for Nottingham's children. This would result in a failure to meet the sufficiency duty and a higher proportion of off-framework placements being made at a higher cost and at a distance from Nottingham.
(b) Offer different fee rate proposals. This option is not recommended as the proposals have taken into account knowledge of the market and feedback from providers, and the overall budget pressures for Children’s Social Care. D2N2 employs a joint post and has undertaken a range of market engagement work to understand pressures and risks to sufficiency which has informed the proposed rate. The final proposals have taken account of the potential impact on service delivery and risk of market failure. Offering different fee rate proposals would place further pressure on the Children’s Social Care budget and this is not a feasible option.