The Scottish Government has been abundantly clear about its commitment to legislation that puts the onus on service providers to produce clearly improved outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society.
Indeed, the entire children’s residential care sector has been encouraged by proposed commitments in the forthcoming Children and Young People Bill to ensure services are more child-centred, rights-focused and – crucially – joined-up.
Yet there is a significant shortterm risk that the pressures faced by the wider public sector in the current financial year have the capacity to undermine the Government’s best efforts.
In recent years, the provision of residential care services for our most vulnerable has been radically improved by the determination of service providers to develop close partnerships with local authorities, resulting in innovation and improved outcomes for those in their care. So it would be tragic if immediate pressures on the public purse were allowed to undermine the progress delivered so far.
With the Scottish budget for children and families services set to drop by 6.2 per cent in real terms over the next financial year, while local authorities face a 2.2 per cent cut, we recognise the need to do more for less on behalf of young people.
However, public sector service commissioners must also remember that the solution to managing budget cuts lies in more, not less, collaboration with independent service providers if service levels in the sector are to be maintained in this recessionary period.
So, yes, strong legislation protecting the most vulnerable in our society is essential. But that will be worth nothing if the successful partnership between us and local authorities is weakened due to budget cuts.
For the sake of our young people, it is incumbent on us to keep collaborating effectively to protect what has been achieved to date.
Tom McGhee Managing
Director, Spark of Genius