Calderdale Council facing child services funding crisis with £3.5m overspend forecast

Financially-stretched councils across Yorkshire are collectively set to overspend by more than £34m on services for vulnerable and at-risk children this year, new analysis has revealed.
Calderdale Council is facing funding problemsCalderdale Council is facing funding problems
Calderdale Council is facing funding problems

Analysis of all 150 local authorities that provide social care in England by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has shown Sheffield Council has the worst projected overspend for 2017/18 at £11.1m - the second highest in the entire country behind Somerset with £14.6m.

Six other councils in Yorkshire, including Calderdale, Bradford and Rotherham, are also expecting to be millions over budget for spending on children’s services this financial year, leading experts to warn of the “perilous state” facing such local authority departments across the country.

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Bradford Council is projecting it will overspend by £3.9 million this year, with increases in the number of looked-after children again cited as a factor.

Calderdale Council is forecasting overspending of £3.5m, Doncaster Council £2.9m, North Yorkshire £2.7m, Wakefield £2.2m and Hull £1.5m.

The National Children’s Bureau said councils have been given “woefully inadequate budgets” by the Government to deal with the challenges they are facing.

The findings come as a survey of councils by the Local Government Information Unit reveals that 32 per cent say finding money to pay for children’s social care is their biggest immediate concern - up from seven per cent last year. Around £2.4bn has been cut from children’s services budgets since 2010.

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But the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the Government is helping to deliver “higher quality services” in the children’s social care sector.

Dr Sam Royston, director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said: “These stark figures reveal an all-too familiar picture of the perilous state of children’s services. It’s no surprise that they are over-spending as they struggle to cope with slashed budgets and soaring demands.”

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “Local authorities have seen significant cuts to their funding while facing rising demand for children’s services. Budgets are woefully inadequate for the challenges they face.”

The Government has insisted local councils are being properly supported to deliver effective children’s services in their communities.

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A spokesman from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “This government is helping the children’s social care sector deliver higher quality services.

“Councils will see a real term increase over the next two years in resources, more freedom and fairness and with a greater certainty to plan and secure value for money.”