Council leaders warn children’s social care is at breaking point
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Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with growing demand for support leading councils to overspend on their budgets.
Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) – which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales – reveals that in 2015/16 councils surpassed their children’s social care budgets by £605 million in order to protect children at immediate risk of harm.
Havering Council exceed its predicted budget of £30.13million by £3.16m.
Across the country, 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – an increas of 140pc in just 10 years.
In Havering 1,276 child protection enquiries were made in 2015/16 compared to just 61 in 2011/12.
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And the number of children on child protection plans increased to 394 from 37 for the same period.
The LGA is warning that the pressures facing children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable, with a £2billion funding gap expected by 2020.
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According to the organisation ongoing cuts to local authority budgets are leading to many councils being forced to make difficult decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce resources.
A Havering Council spokesman said: “This increased demand puts pressure on the council’s budget which has reduced as the government’s grant to the borough reduces.
“The local authority is working hard and innovatively to ensure we have a stable workforce to respond to the challenge.”
Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, added: “The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children’s services overspend shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children’s social care, both now and in the near future.”
Cllr Watts added that early intervention was key.
The council’s cabinet member for children and learning, Cllr Robert Benham added: “Our response is to reach families sooner, working with them to reduce the likelihood of their children coming into our care.
“We have successfully bid to bring in resources via a number of innovative programmes, some of which are funded by national government.
“This has generated over £2.5m of new innovation funding into the borough in the last year alone.”