Number of children in care placing pressure on council budget
The number of children in care is placing pressure on council purse strings in Wrexham.
It comes as it has been revealed that Wrexham Council’s children’s social care department is facing a projected overspend of around £260,000 this year.
The amount of children being looked after outside the county has been highlighted as part of the reason why the service is likely to spend more than expected.
However, council leader Mark Pritchard stressed the importance of keeping youngsters safe and said the authority would spend whatever was necessary.
Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting this week he said: “For me, the most important thing is they are safe and if we have to overspend in some areas then so be it.
“That department doesn’t know what’s going to come through the door from one day to the next, it’s a juggling act.
“If we can save money with not sending them out of the county then so be it.
“We should never forget in this area, these are children with very difficult complex needs and issues surrounding them and our priority should always be to keep them safe.”
The actual projected overspend in out of county and leaving care placements is £748,000, but that figure is expected to be reduced by additional funding sources, staff vacancies and the use of grant reserves.
At the meeting, the authority’s head of children and young people outlined the work being carried out to reduce the number of children being looked after outside the area.
It includes a drive to boost the amount of foster carers in Wrexham.
Susan Evans said: “We’ve appointed a recruitment officer whose jobs is to go out there to promote Wrexham to foster carers and increase the pool of in-house carers.
“It’s already paying dividends as we’ve got some prospective foster carers going to panel.
“Our foster service is under pressure as courts order lots of reports if children come into care.
“I think we have done well, but the problem we have had in the fostering department at times is because there is so much court led work, it’s prevented them from getting out there.
“It’s critical when people are coming forward that you have the capacity to move that forward quickly.”
Finance officer Mark Owen said it was an issue which was likely to continue with councils across the UK seeing an increase in the number of looked after children.
Meanwhile, Cllr Geoff Lowe criticised the lack of government support given to local authorities to tackle the rise.
He said: “You still get a sense there is a problem out there that local authorities are having to deal with and we’ve dealt with it as well as we could with the resources we have.
“What concerns me is our resources continue to shrink and the government initiatives over the years have failed us.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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