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Budget overspend sparks questions

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Front
Budget overspend sparks questions

BUDGET overspends year after year suggest that social work services in Dumfries and Galloway are not receiving the right level of funding required.

The struggling department is reporting an overspend of £455,000 in this financial year, which is primarily down to the ever-rising costs of finding residential care placements for children.

This time last year, social work chiefs were in a similar position and announced a projected overspend for 2022/23 of £415,000.

At the time, the previous chief social work officer, Lillian Cringles, pointed to a shortage of residential placements for children and the council being forced to pay a fortune to external providers outwith the region.

She added: “Another aspect is that we’ve got some extremely damaged young people who present with challenging behaviour that requires us to increase the support.”

The financial pressures on social work services for 2023/24 came to light at a committee meeting in August last year where an early assessment of spending predicted a six-figure deficit in the budget.

Paula Stevenson, who represents North West Dumfries ward, said at the meeting: “We sit on this committee so often, and we hear social work is under more and more pressure.

“Under children, families and social care assessment and field work, the base budget is less than the final outrun.

“Are we really funding social work properly? Because this is a real concern.”

Councillor Pauline Drysdale, chairwoman of the social work committee, added: “It’s definitely something we’re going to have to push with the Scottish Government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), and bring it to full council.”

The social work department has been under extraordinary pressure before, during, and now after the pandemic.

The total number of calls from members of the public that were handled in 2022/23 was 91,667 – compared to 83,603 the previous year.

Meanwhile, the number of out of hours calls received from the public was 14,025, which was also a rise from 13,883 in 2021-22.

Front

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