For those councillors who attended a minor public schools, orthodontics is Greek for "to straighten teeth", literally. It turns out the council credit card was used to pay £1000 to have a child in social services care have orthodontic treatment using a private dentist.
A council finance officer claims that the child was in council care under "Section 20 of the Children Act 1989". This provides for a child to be accommodated by the council with the consent of those with parental responsibility. Section 20 is based on co-operative working between the local authority, the young person and his or her parents because a court is not ordering the child to be looked after.
So the council accommodated a young person under S20, and paid for them to have private dental treatment to correct malocclusion (again, for the minor public school educated councillors - and there are a few - that means overcrowding).
But why wasn't it done on the NHS?
The council officer claims they "tried" to get treatment under the NHS but couldn't. Under the NHS rules there are five grades of IOTN (Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need). Grade 1 is considered "perfect" teeth.
Grade 2 is for minor irregularities such as, slightly protruding upper front teeth, slightly irregular teeth or minor issues the of upper and lower teeth which do not interfere with normal functions.
Grade 3, is for greater irregularities which normally do not need treatment for health reasons.
Whereas 4 and 5 are more severe irregularities, such as protruding teeth more than 4mm, or for extra teeth "crowding". Only Grades 4 and 5 qualify for treatment under the NHS.
Of course no one begrudges the child in question the treatment, if it was deemed necessary, but questions need to be asked as it was paid for using public money.
- If they tried to get it on the NHS a dentist would have told them it is not considered severe enough to qualify for NHS treatment. Therefore would have been grades 2-3 on the IOTN scale.
- The child was not in local authority care by order of a court, but with consent of those with parental responsibility, in other words, voluntarily.
Why does the council then stand in with £1000 of taxpayers money to fund this, when there are probably many people in a similar situation who don't have the benefit of a council credit card?
More importantly, what controls are there in place to ensure proper accounting and reviews of council expenditure on the credit card?