More Walsall children in care after domestic violence spike
A surge in domestic violence has piled pressure on to children's social care services in a Black Country borough leaving the council facing a £1.4m black hole.
In just three months Walsall Council has received 1,511 referrals - a rate of more than 500 a month - compared to 4,586 in the whole of last year - less than 400 a month.
In April, May and June a total of 1,142 requests for support were made to the authority's 'Early Help' service for those aged up to the age of 19.
Out of those 139 were due to neglect, 127 were down to domestic abuse against parents and carers and 115 were recorded as a result of physical abuse.
The issues have caused a spike in the number of children subject to protection plans in the borough with the number jumping from 333 in March by a quarter to 421 by the end of June.
A council report said: "Reasons are largely an increase in high level domestic abuse i.e. physical assaults, breach of non-molestation orders etc. and also an increase in referrals of physical abuse as well as an increase in referrals from schools."
The council is now predicting an overspend of £4.5m on its children services and education department in 2017/18.
And even though they have plans in place to save £1.9m as well as raid reserves to to the tune of £1.2m, it will still leave a £1.4m shortfall at the end of the year.
The increase in social worker and legal costs associated with complicated looked after children cases account for the nearly half of that gap - £720,000 - according to a council finance report.
It comes after the Walsall Domestic Violence Forum shut down in 2016 after operating in the town for more than 20 years due to a lack of funding.
An NSPCC spokesman said: “It is vital that prompt and appropriate action is taken when concerns are raised about the welfare of a child, to ensure they get the help they need.
“Latest figures revealed the NSPCC Helpline referred 123 cases of child neglect to police and social services in Walsall in 2016/17 – up from 50 five years ago.
“The NSPCC believes the full scale of the problem across the UK could be much greater and is urging the Government to commission a nationwide study that measures the extent of child neglect and abuse.
“We would urge anyone concerned about a child to contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, where they can speak to trained counsellors who, if necessary, can take action on their behalf."
A Walsall Council spokeswoman said: "Tackling domestic violence is a priority for the local safeguarding children’s board . The local authority has commissioned a range of services to provide support to victims and to work with perpetrators."
Addressing the financial shortfall the spokeswoman added: "Further work is currently underway via Children’s Services to mitigate reported additional costs."