A ‘dramatic’ increase in the numbers of children being taken into council care could put more pressure on Sandwell budgets, a senior council chief has warned.
The bleak forecast came in a report on the authority's financial health which recorded many departments had saved money which will be used to protect front line services in coming years.
The number of children being looked after by the council has risen from 552 to 722 over four years, with a dramatic increase during 2017- 2018.
Speaking to councillors at a meeting of the Budget and Corporate Scrutiny Management Board the Executive Director for Resources, Darren Carter, warned increasing numbers of children being taken into care could add to the council’s financial pressures in future.
Remarking central government had recognised the need to increase funding for adult social care, he said local authorities were expected to find the extra cash for children’s care from its own budgets.
Summarising the council’s finances he said the council had ended the financial year in a healthy position: ”Most services across the council ended with a surplus which will be carried forward to next year and it's been a trend in Sandwell for a number of years the years that we have achieved this.”
But he added: “The one area within the council where it isn’t happening is within children's services.
“We have had a, I think the appropriate word is, dramatic increase in demand for our children’s social care services in the last 12 months and that has come through as a significant financial pressure on those services.”
Saying he was hopeful that the increase in numbers won’t increase as quickly this year, he added that early indications showed that demand was still increasing.
In April this year, the council set up the Sandwell Children’s Trust which took over the running of services for looked after children in the borough with a £58 million budget for this year, £13 million more than was spent in 2016-2017.
The trust was created after the government watchdog Ofsted repeatedly criticised the authority’s children's service as inadequate.