Funding solutions that are long-term, and national, are what is needed to help more vulnerable children and adults in the borough, Ealing Council has told the government.
More people are turning to councils for help and there is extra demand in important areas like social care and homelessness. In Ealing, an extra £12.7million is needed this year just to meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
These extra pressures come at a time when the council is already dealing with a 64% cut in its government grant. This means for every £1 it used to receive, it now gets just 36p. After a decade of cuts, Ealing still needs to make around £50million in savings over the next three years to balance its books.
In September, the government announced how much it would give public sector organisations next year, including some extra money for councils. Ealing’s share of this extra money is still being confirmed and is likely to be several million. After a decade of funding cuts, all extra money is welcome, but it will not be enough to make up for the £144million that Ealing has already lost over this time, or even meet this year’s extra demand from children with additional needs.
And by only announcing a one-year funding deal, councils like Ealing must plan long-term and complicated support for children and adults with little idea of what funding they could receive in the future to pay for it.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for finance and leisure, said: “We all want to do the right thing by our young people with additional needs, as well as those who are supported through our adult social care system, and this one-year plug, falls far too short. The lack of clarity for future years leaves us in the shocking position where we are planning support for the most vulnerable people in our society based on estimates.
“This is all against a backdrop where Ealing has lost 64p in every £1 we used to receive in our government grant funding. Despite these funding cuts, we will continue to do everything we can as a council to protect those services, ensuring every child gets the best possible start in life and we are there for those who need our support throughout their lives.
“We are not alone here in Ealing. All councils are facing the same big problems. And with the housing market and social care system in such a fragile state, we can’t solve these problems locally, despite our best efforts. We need national leadership and national solutions.”
Ealing Council’s cabinet met on Tuesday, 15 October to discuss the council’s latest financial situation and how the council’s Future Ealing programme is helping to improve services for local people, and deliver on the council’s priorities, despite the budget cuts.