Stand Number : B11

CIPFA is the only professional accountancy body in the world exclusively dedicated to public finance.  Our 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.

CIPFA Social care benchmarking case study : Cumbria County Council

Cumbria County Council, like other authorities, needed to constantly assess how they were delivering their front line services and how strategically they can be matched with the need to continue to make significant financial savings. They can see their own data but to put that into context they needed to look outside to see what the wider Local Authority community is doing. Children Looked After was one area where they had seen a big change in costs and needed help to understand what that meant. CIPFA’s Social Care Benchmarking Club was able to provide the evidential data they needed to support the review of those services.

How did CIPFA help?

Their main challenge was the increase in numbers of Children Looked After, spend was compounded by many other factors. Some of these problems were also shared by other club members, such as the reduction in overall Council Budget, and the increased costs associated with providing an efficient front line service. In particular they could also see that their foster carers were part of an ageing population and would have to address this so that it didn’t create problems further down the line.

Lessons learned

By comparing data collected as part of the CIPFA benchmarking club they were able to see where those key challenges might be resonating with other authorities. Other authorities had seen some rise in numbers for Looked After Children so we were able to see how they were reacting to that challenge. There were no straightforward answers in this area so they had to use the data gathered and look at potential actions and model the impact of those actions to see if they would deliver the changes required. One of the actions modelled was a potential recruitment campaign for new foster carers and that has now been actioned. As a council they knew where there are costs that offer value for money and where they could look at the gap analysis in data and work on closing that or improving on that over the coming year.

This wasn’t the first time they had taken part in a benchmarking club exercise, so they were really encouraged that CIPFA was acting on members feedback and had looked at amending reports following consultation at the steering groups. This collaborative approach has led to some significant changes to the data sets that they found invaluable, like the data collected around budgets for fostering and residential services, and the funding and spending levels.

The implications for Cumbria mean that they have a better understanding of overall spend and potential actions to mitigate that spend. The value of sharing knowledge and data between authorities is invaluable in supporting that planning and policy setting process and for setting future strategies.