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£750k set aside to deal with 'volatile' social care department

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The £750,000 ‘risk’ fund has been created with cross-party support to directly deal with the mounting problems inside the department which at one point last year was running a £1.7m overspend.
The needs of vulnerable and at risk clients fluctuate wildly and can cost huge sums that are almost impossible to predict.
Additional problems such as the sudden collapse of stricken care home provider Southern Cross last year could also have a knock-on effect.
Despite the measures being unprecedented in recent council history, the council’s finance spokesman Alan Law (Con, Basildon) said it was prudent to plan ahead this year.
Savings made elsewhere, such as cuts to commissioning contracts and procurements, have been used to bolster the pot.
“As part of our efficiency focus we have identified and quantified the most common and volatile risks, and so as we make one-off savings, instead of spending them as before on additional projects, we are instead using these to build a tactical reserve to smooth out the volatile element of care demand.
“This should enable us to continue to manage within our budget as we have done so far.”
According to a report approved by the council’s executive on Thursday, the worst-case scenario would see the department come £1.5m overspent, but the council is confident the measures it has taken were the most likely outcome and the £750,000 sum is expected to be enough to contain arising issues.
The leader of the council, Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn), said the difficulties of a demand-led community care meant how much money would be needed was difficult to predict.
“For complex and needy cases the costs can be very high with a few individuals having a big impact on budgets,” he said.
“This budget has also been subject to changes in policy between Community Care and the NHS with changes being made that can have big budgetary consequences for both organisations. In the past these changes have occurred in year after budgets have been agreed.
“Not to plan for such risk is irresponsible and would put at risk other services and our ability to control council tax.”

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