Financial resilience in children’s services

Alongside the wider LGA corporate finance offer, we have a specific offer of a focused finance review to help local authorities to better understand the use of resources and capacity across children’s services and the impact of this on budgets.


This includes:

• children’s services efficiency and resources peer challenge
• children’s services focused finance reviews.

For more info email Richard Cooke (Head of Children's Services Improvement) [email protected]

1. Overview

This document provides a framework for delivering children’s services focused finance reviews.

The LGA Children’s Improvement Finance Reviews are part of the wider LGA support offer to councils. The offer has been developed in recognition of the challenge councils are facing in continuing to meet their statutory responsibilities for children in a context of increasing demand, cost pressures, and a reducing financial envelope.

The reviews offer an independent evaluation of the strength of children’s services finance arrangements, including corporate support, as well as identifying opportunities for improvement and potential areas for budget savings.

This review sits alongside the more in-depth Resources and Efficiency peer challenges which has been designed to determine potential opportunities to control and reduce costs, ensure efficiencies, and maximise positive outcomes in children’s services, including the identification of invest to save opportunities.

2. Reason for a review

There are several reasons why a council might request a children’s services focused financial review. These could include to: 

  • inform financial planning
  • identify the potential for or review existing plans for financial savings from children’s services
  • understand children’s services overall budget position and financial performance, including demand pressures, as compared against national, comparator councils and regional performance
  • explore culture, practice, and behaviours in the system around children’s services finance.

3. Approach

The approach has been tested with a number of local authorities. 
Reviews will be completed by experienced professionals with appropriate expertise, for example: 

  • an experienced ex-director of children’s services (DCS)
  • an experienced ex-director of finance (S151).

The work is conducted in a similar way to other sector led improvement activity i.e., as a critical friend offering expert advice and support. The LGA may also signpost to further potential support as part of the sector led improvement programmes. This work is advisory and is not an inspection or audit. 

The offer is flexible and can be tailored to the specific needs of the council. It is modular and the council can request some or all modules as required:

A. Data modules: 

  • Diagnostic: establishing the current budgetary position
  • Benchmarking: identifying the comparative position (against a range of comparator groups as relevant)
  • Modelling: exploring potential options through better ways of working LGA Children’s Improvement Children’s Services focused Finance Reviews.

B. System modules: 

  • Review of whole system support of children’s services finance
  • Establishing children’s services financial systems and controls
  • Reviewing thematic focus e.g., commissioning, workforce, placements
  • Developing a financial strategy for children’s services.

4. Methodology

Delivery of the review will depend on the modules identified by the council. It can include a mixture of off-site data gathering and analysis and on-site. Example structures are: 

  • One day review into children’s services finance system (all on-site)
  • Three / four-day review including financial diagnostic, benchmarking and financial strategy. (One / two days off-site and two-days onsite)

Reviews can also be carried out remotely.

The review will conclude with a feedback meeting to present the findings (in a PowerPoint presentation) and discuss next steps, including any further support or signposting. In general, it will include the following stages:

Stage 1: Scoping

Stage 2: Preparation and programming

Stage 3: Field work

Stage 4: Feedback meeting

Individual Children’s Improvement financial review modules can be delivered alongside other peer challenges, including the Resources and Efficiency Peer Challenge to create a longer and more in-depth review. 

5. Report / data sources: Note that this is not an exclusive list and can be adjusted for each review in consultation around the modules chosen.

  • Documents
    • Council / Children’s Services Strategic plans
    • Budget and Medium-Term Financial plan
    • Budget monitoring reports
    • Children’s transformation and saving plans
  • Data sources
    • Local Authority Interactive Toolkit
    • RS and RO Forms
    • Council’s own internal reports and information
    • LG Inform
    • ONS Population estimates