This week Cllr Paul Carter the leader of Kent County Council gave evidence this week to the Child Poverty Bill committee. the Tory MP for Henley, John Howell, pointed out that Cllr Carter evidence was also relevant to another matter – the requirement under the Sustainable Communities Act for public bodies to give a breakdown of spending in different localities. The Government has effectively wriggled out of the undertaking.
The point is to look at the total amount of public spending from different sources to see if some of the duplication and bureaucracy could be stripped away. Cllr Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster Council, has outlined an approach of looking at the small number of families with serious problems and pulling together public services to provide effective help.
Cllr Carter says Kent are following the same course. He says:
We are only just starting the journey. Clearly, Westminster is further ahead in looking at the 50 or 100 such families in Westminster and therefore in trying to establish what the solutions are, what the totality of public resource going into the support of those families is, and what are the better solutions that give better outcomes at lesser cost. As I say, it is one of our themes in the Total Place concept around the Margate renewal programme. For example, I am told that, regarding the assessment cost of vulnerable families, you get two, three or even four different officers of the various public agencies knocking on the same doors and asking the same questions, so the assessment cost is not what it ought to be, because we have not joined up helping and supporting families with either single access to the support mechanism or single assessment of their needs.
In one shape or form, the amount of public agency support going to each of those families is more than £100,000 or £150,000. When you then start to talk to the health economy and the educational economy through to special needs, all of them are acting in isolation. With the health economy, the special needs economy and the public agencies, if you looked at the totality of expenditure on those 15, 20 or 100 families—more than £150,000—and thought about that pooled resource, would you start to do things dramatically differently that would lead to much more positive outcomes for those vulnerable families?