A consortium has commissioned CIPFA to undertake a sector-led project to help provide a clearer picture of children's services costs by establishing a firm basis for comparing and recording such costs.
The consortium consists of the LGA, London Councils, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Officers (SOLACE) and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS). The current data on children's services costs is largely taken from Section 251 data submitted by councils to the Department for Education (DfE).
The final report of the project confirms the CIPFA view that the current S251 data collection is not fit for purpose. It suggests improvements such as simplifying the present 11 annual activity and financial returns to Government into a single unified return. One of the key concerns is that activity data is inputted on a different form/by a different person from spend data, but DfE often uses ‘unit cost' analysis which multiplies this data together and sometimes produces unbelievable results. The CIPFA proposal for a single form will allow the unit cost results to be played back to councils before they submit the data to sense check it an iron out any problems.