Cumbria has joined forces with other North West Local Authorities to call on Chancellor Philip Hammond to provide additional cash to address the growing crisis in funding for children’s services.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, added her signature to a letter that sets out the challenge faced by councils as the demand for support and complexity of cases is increasing while council budgets are being slashed.
Cllr Burns said: “The fact is that this situation is unsustainable. Like many other council’s our children’s services budget will be overspent again this year. And that’s simply because the level of demand keeps increasing. We cannot continue like this.”
In the North West there are now 13,000 children looked after, around 650 of them in Cumbria. This is a 20 year high for the region and a 12% increase since 2013 alone. Overall councils dealt with 90,930 referrals in 2016/17, a 2% increase on the year before. This comes at the same time as a sharp escalation in costs, for example across the region there has been a £45m increase in expenditure on residential care placements this year alone. Data suggests that the increase in demand is being driven by an increase in domestic abuse and mental ill health.
Cllr Burns continued: “We know that we need to support children and families early on to prevent problems getting worse, but that’s increasingly difficult as we have to focus more resources on responding to crisis cases. We are entering a vicious circle and only increased resources, allowing us to get ahead of problems, are going to make a difference. The Chancellor has to act.”