Stockton's Infinity Bridge

ANEC makes the case for extra resources for look after children

26 March 2012

The Association of North East Councils (ANEC) has highlighted its concerns to Government about the increase in the number of Look After Children in the North East and the rising cost pressures placed on Children's Services budgets.

National statistics highlight the North East as having the highest increases in the rates of Looked After Children over the last three years. Numbers have risen by 570 to reach 3,820 during this period.

Rising cost pressures in Children's Services are not confined to a few individual councils - it is an issue for all ANEC member authorities.

Newcastle City Council has 551 Looked After Children compared with 460 at the end of March 2009 and is facing an increased cost pressure of £3.56 million for the current year. The scenario for Durham County Council shows a similarly worrying trend. The authority has seen a significant rise from 452 to 568 Looked After Children between April 2009 and September 2011, representing an increase of 25.6%. South Tyneside Council is also experiencing record numbers of children entering care. Between April 2010 and March 2011, there were 134 under-5 year olds entering care. South Tyneside's rates of under-18 year olds in care per 10,000 population are as much as 5 times greater than Wokingham Council, with an increase from 260 to 315 Looked After Children from 31 March 2009 to the year ending March 2011. In budgetary terms, for the financial year 2011/12 the projected overspend is £2 million due to managing as many as 80 more children in the system.

In Darlington, numbers have escalated from 130 in the year ending 31 March 2009 to 145 in the year ending 31 March 2010 to as many as 185 in the year ending March 2011. In Middlesbrough the number of Looked After Children increased from 275 in the year ending 31 March 2009 to 330 in the year ending March 2011. Furthermore, the differentials in levels of need between areas of the North East and other parts of the country have sharpened dramatically. In Middlesbrough, for example, which is the 9th most deprived local authority area in England, there are 105 Looked After Children per 10,000 compared with 20 Looked After Children per 10,000 in Wokingham.

The coming year's total formula grant funding for children's social services will be affected by a cash reduction of 32.5%, which has a much bigger impact in deprived areas and will add to cost pressures for all local authority budgets. For 2012/13 Hartlepool Borough Council will face a reduction of -9.5% and Middlesbrough a -10.1% reduction in relative needs amount per head of population compared with a -6.0% reduction in Richmond upon Thames and a -6.8% reduction in Wokingham.

ANEC is seeking to work with the Government to explore and help to develop potential solutions to address and mitigate the difficulties that North East councils are experiencing and to ensure fairness in the allocation of resources across the country as a whole.

Cllr Watson, Chair of ANEC, said: "It is clear from national statistics and local experience that there has been a higher increase over the last three years in the numbers of Looked After Children in the North East. As the North East already faces significant cost pressures in children's services, this is a critical area for us to focus on. We want to work with the Government to explore opportunities to meet our more complex and demanding needs. A potential solution would be to use extra Business Rates income raised through higher RPI increase or from extra income expected to be generated in 2011/12 and 2012/13 to help meet cost pressures in children's services and to provide extra funding for Looked After Children."

For further information please contact Bethan Hughes on 0191 261 3917 or 07957 823 864 (mobile); email bethan.hughes@northeastcouncils.gov.uk