Rising cost of children’s social care

More children are in council care
More children are in council care

The number of children in council care in Blackpool has risen to 542 prompting concerns about the spiralling cost of children’s services.

Spending on the service has risen to £38.4m this year, up from £35.7m last year when the department also overspent by £5.4m.

But council chiefs say corners cannot be cut if a child’s welfare is at risk.

Coun Graham Cain, statutory lead member for Children’s Services at Blackpool Council, said: “What we won’t ever do is gamble a child’s safety just to save money.

“When they are in our care, we automatically become that child’s legal parent and it is only fair that we treat and look after them as we do our own children.

“With that comes extra costs in supporting them, keeping them safe and providing them with the tools to not be left behind.”

Measures to reduce the number of looked after children include more support for families through the Better Start initiative, and encouraging more people to foster or adopt.

Coun Cain added: “Almost anybody can foster. Young or old, straight or gay, married or single, whether you have your own birth children or not. Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a phenomenal role.”

Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams said the cost of child placements outside Blackpool was putting pressure on the budget.

He said: “We would never turn away a child or anyone else who needs help, but the money we are now spending on placing these children in accommodation outside of Blackpool and away from their families is having an enormous negative affect on budgets.”

The Local Government Association says children’s social care nationally is being pushed to breaking point.

Growing demand for support has led to 75 per cent of councils in England overspending on their children’s services budgets by more than half a billion pounds, it has warned.

New analysis by the 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 £605m in order to protect children at immediate risk of harm.

More than 170,000 children were subject to child protection inquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – a 140 per cent increase in just 10 years.

To find out more about adoption or fostering, call 477888 or email fostering.adoption@blackpool.gov.uk