Northumberland children's social care on course for £3.7million overspend as pandemic adds to problems

Northumberland County Council is forecasting a £3.7million overspend on children’s social care this year – with almost 75% related to Covid-19.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 11th January 2021, 12:12 pm
Covid-related pressures accounts for £2.7million of extra spending by Northumberland's children's social care services
Covid-related pressures accounts for £2.7million of extra spending by Northumberland's children's social care services

An update on the performance of the authority’s children’s services department up to the end of October 2020 explains that of this headline total, £2.7million is a result of coronavirus pressures and £1million is business as usual.

In the education and skills service, a deficit of £1.1million is predicted, with the vast majority – £947,000 – as a result of Covid-19 and £146,000 business as usual.

Presenting the report to the family and children’s services committee on Thursday, January 7, Alan Hartwell said: “This is the six-monthly report on the public-facing performance indicators and the financial position for children’s services, and it focuses on how it is comparing to the national average.

“Children’s services is performing well against the national averages, and where it is poorer, the report details the explanations behind that and the actions that have been identified by senior managers.

“It is worth saying that the indicators are under review and also that the financial position does remain a challenge.”

Going onto highlight some of the key issues, he said: “There has been an increase in the numbers of looked-after children in the last 18 months, but that increase has abated since the spring and the numbers within Northumberland are significantly and consistently less than the regional average.”

He added: “Since this report was written, the number of children subject to child protection plans (CPPs) has continued to decrease and is bringing us closer to the national average.”

In July 2020, we reported that the number of young people subject to CPPs in Northumberland hit a 10-year high in the last quarter of 2019-20, with the latest increase largely taking place in the four weeks before the first national lockdown.

The number of children in care in the county had also increased over the last year, with this spike continuing into lockdown, although this was not necessarily down to more children going into care, so much as the authority not being able to get young people out of care at the same rate as before.

Children are made subject to CPPs if they have suffered significant harm, such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, and are at continuing risk of this harm.

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