Wigan Council's £11.2m overspend on child social care
Wigan Council spent more than £10m over its budget for child social care last year, figures reveal.
The Local Government Association is warning that funding is failing to keep up with huge increases in demand, putting vulnerable children and young people at risk.
Wigan Council had £36.1m allocated in its 2018-19 budget for child protection services, social workers and children in care.
But new figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal that the council spent £11.2m more than this – reporting a net spend of £47.3m last year.
This follows a four per cent budget cut in the previous year, with Wigan’s child social services seeing their funding allocation fall by £1.4 million from 2017-18.
In Wigan, £10 in every £100 spent on local services in 2018-19 went to children’s social care.
Adult and children’s social care accounts for almost 30 per cent of councils’ service spending across England, more than £25bn last year.
Of this, £9.3bn went to children’s services – 10 per cent of the total spend.
Overall, councils in England overspent on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800m.
The LGA said that soaring demand and tight budgets have forced councils to divert money away from early intervention services in order to protect children at most immediate risk of harm.
It said around 1,800 referrals are made to children’s social services every day – more than one a minute.
Coun Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by.
“That means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that.”
Children’s charity Barnardo’s said it has long warned about “a perfect storm in children’s social care”.
Chief executive Javed Khan said: “More youngsters are needing help to cope with increasingly complex challenges, while councils are struggling to find the money they need.
“These alarming figures show the lengths councils are having to go in order to be able to provide the help families need, and the Government must urgently address this.”
The Department for Education said it was putting an extra £410m into social care this year, and £84m over the following five years.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential.
“It is essential that we all strive to achieve the highest standard of services for our most vulnerable children.”
Wigan Council were contacted for a comment but had not responded as the Wigan Post went to press.