Number of vulnerable children up by a third in Sandwell
The number of looked-after children in Sandwell Council’s care has risen by a third in just more than 12 months.
Councils across the country are complaining about the increase of at risk children pushing budgets into the red.
The local authority has now revealed it is having to cope with 800 vulnerable children, up by 200 from March 2017.
The increase is a major challenge for the service, which in April was transferred to a government-imposed trust after years of being branded inadequate by Ofsted.
Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, was appointed chair of Sandwell Children’s Trust, which will run the service for the next 10 years.
Darren Carter, Executive Director for Resources for Sandwell Council, warned in June increasing numbers of children being taken into care could add to future financial pressures.
Speaking to councillors, he said: “We have had a, I think the appropriate word is, dramatic increase in demand for our children’s social care services in the last 12 months and that has come through as a significant financial pressure on those services.”
A Freedom of Information request has now revealed the scale of that rise, with the council reporting it was caring for 801 youngsters by May this year – up from 601 in March 2017.
It is a rise of 33.3 per cent. From 2017 to 2018, Sandwell budgeted £23.52 million for the service but actual spent was £32.05m. It has increased its predicted spend to £32.4m for this year.
The financial pressures Sandwell faces were illustrated by a report in July that revealed its neighbour, Wolverhampton Council, was predicting a possible £2.5m overspend in its children’s services when the number of youngsters it cared for rose by just 13 to 648.
Sandwell Children’s Trust declined to say how much the increase in numbers had cost or if it had approached the government for additional funding.
A spokesman for the trust said: “If children are unable to live with their families, it is our duty to do all we can to provide a home where they are safe and cared for.”
By George Makin, Local Democracy Reporter