Gloucestershire’s sky-high cost of social care

January 19, 2012 1:26 PM

Social care is a valuable and difficult service dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It includes child protection, adoption and fostering. As part of this service, children or their parents have sometimes be transported around the country. This all sounds very reasonable and what taxpayers’ money should be used for. However, as a result of a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire County Council, it appears that some of these trips can be very far flung indeed and very expensive.



Out of 476 flights recorded by the council between 2009 and 2011, the vast majority are logged as being ‘transport for vulnerable customer or accompanying vulnerable customer’. This includes a party of three travelling to and from Lagos from London Heathrow in January 2010 at a cost of £4,418 in air tickets, a party of four travelling to and from Phoenix in the USA in February and June 2009 at £3,328, two people flying to Durban in South Africa in May 2009 at £1,568, a party of eight flying to Beijing in May 2009 at £4464, with additional internal flights from Beijing to Weihai costing £1,232, a party of four to Durban in April 2011 at £2,232, six people flying to Brisbane via Singapore in September 2011 at £3,600, plus numerous flights throughout Europe including trips to Gdansk, Barcelona, Vienna, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague, Riga, Istanbul and a party of nine to Berlin.

When I queried some of these far flung journeys, which of course do not include the cost of accommodation, I was told by a council spokesperson that: ‘Of the flights you have identified, all but one were for “vulnerable customers”.  These are social care related, including contact with parents for children in care, a statutory requirement.’ There was no further explanation of the trips to China or Australia.

The cost of such social care in Gloucestershire seems very high. An analysis of other councils’ flight costs in social care reveals more exactly how this money can be spent. In Southampton County Council, for example, several flights to Singapore are described as being for the purpose of taking a child to a guardian or for ‘special guardian assessment’. Overall, however, the vast majority of Southampton’s social care flights are confined to the UK. It seems that Gloucestershire County Council seems to be very diligent in sending its carers around the world or have particular high demands that other councils don’t share. Our increasing global community means that such costs are only going to rise.

In the meantime, in Bath and North-East Somerset, the council is advertising for a new chief executive but with a cut of 15% in the position’s basic pay—a victory for all those Bath TPA supporters who petitioned for a reduction in the council boss’s pay!

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers’ AllianceSocial care is a valuable and difficult service dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It includes child protection, adoption and fostering. As part of this service, children or their parents have sometimes be transported around the country. This all sounds very reasonable and what taxpayers’ money should be used for. However, as a result of a Freedom of Information request to Gloucestershire County Council, it appears that some of these trips can be very far flung indeed and very expensive.



Out of 476 flights recorded by the council between 2009 and 2011, the vast majority are logged as being ‘transport for vulnerable customer or accompanying vulnerable customer’. This includes a party of three travelling to and from Lagos from London Heathrow in January 2010 at a cost of £4,418 in air tickets, a party of four travelling to and from Phoenix in the USA in February and June 2009 at £3,328, two people flying to Durban in South Africa in May 2009 at £1,568, a party of eight flying to Beijing in May 2009 at £4464, with additional internal flights from Beijing to Weihai costing £1,232, a party of four to Durban in April 2011 at £2,232, six people flying to Brisbane via Singapore in September 2011 at £3,600, plus numerous flights throughout Europe including trips to Gdansk, Barcelona, Vienna, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague, Riga, Istanbul and a party of nine to Berlin.

When I queried some of these far flung journeys, which of course do not include the cost of accommodation, I was told by a council spokesperson that: ‘Of the flights you have identified, all but one were for “vulnerable customers”.  These are social care related, including contact with parents for children in care, a statutory requirement.’ There was no further explanation of the trips to China or Australia.

The cost of such social care in Gloucestershire seems very high. An analysis of other councils’ flight costs in social care reveals more exactly how this money can be spent. In Southampton County Council, for example, several flights to Singapore are described as being for the purpose of taking a child to a guardian or for ‘special guardian assessment’. Overall, however, the vast majority of Southampton’s social care flights are confined to the UK. It seems that Gloucestershire County Council seems to be very diligent in sending its carers around the world or have particular high demands that other councils don’t share. Our increasing global community means that such costs are only going to rise.

In the meantime, in Bath and North-East Somerset, the council is advertising for a new chief executive but with a cut of 15% in the position’s basic pay—a victory for all those Bath TPA supporters who petitioned for a reduction in the council boss’s pay!

Tim Newark, Bath and South-West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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