MORE money should be handed to social work services in Dumfries and Galloway to try and resolve its crisis budget situation, according to councillors.
The social work department, which reports an overspend almost every year due to pressures from needy people in the community, is seeking an additional £1.25m from council coffers.
This is primarily down to the cost of residential placements for children rising to nearly £5.6m for 2023/24.
The matter was discussed at the council’s social work committee on Tuesday when Annandale South Councillor George Jamieson called for the department’s frail financial position to be referred to the council’s budget panel urgently.
This was backed by his SNP colleague, North West Dumfries Councillor Andy Ferguson, who insisted that the social work department is “under-resourced, not overspent”.
Councillor Ferguson, a former chairman of the social work committee, said: “Have we accessed any of the Covid money that’s still there for social work?
“And the 64,000 dollar question for me is: should we, as social work, go there cap in hand and ask for crumbs off the table – or should the table be handing out slices of bread to social work?”
The council’s social work interim chief officer, Stephen Morgan, explained to councillors how the same budget pressures will be experienced next year too.
Mr Morgan said: “In relation to the reporting of the social work budget over many years now, we’ve been in similar positions where we’ve projected similar levels of overspend, and at the end of the year it’s been managed.
“It’s been managed corporately in terms of underspends elsewhere. What we’re trying to do now is show the extent of the pressure on the budget – and what we actually spend as a service.
“Within the overall entirety of the funding available to us across the corporate piece, and what we have available as a contingency fund, we will be okay.
“However, it doesn’t truly reflect what we spend as a service on a day-to-day basis. That’s what we’re putting into the budget panel to say, ‘this is what we need on an ongoing basis, it has to be part of our budget – not sitting at the side as a contingency’.”
Councillor Ferguson responded: “My view is you’re not overspent, you’re under-resourced for the crisis you’ve got.
“The problem we’ve got is with the way the budgets are managed.
“We, as a committee, should be saying to the budget panel, ‘we are unhappy with the way the budgets are put together just now’.
“And we, as a committee, are seeking that the department is properly resourced.”
Councillors agreed to refer the funding matter onto the council budget panel meeting, which takes place next month.