64 children referred to social services in just one week in Hartlepool - with warning team 'at breaking point'

More than 60 children were referred to social services in just one week in Hartlepool, it has been revealed.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 4:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 6:16 pm
Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

Council chiefs say children’s social care teams are at ‘breaking point’ as demand increases, with 64 children referred for services in the first week of July 2019 alone.

Sally Robinson, director of children’s and joint commissioning services, said the average caseload is 18 children per social worker, but this can rise to 34 for experienced staff.

The issue was raised at Hartlepool Borough Council children’s services committee.

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Councillor Lesley Hamilton said: “People need to know some uncomfortable truths about what children are living in in this town.

“The pressure on social workers is absolutely immense, it’s an absolute scandal children and families are living as they are, not helped at all by changes in Universal Credit and the whole benefits system, which is an absolute disgrace.

“The money that is there to try and keep them safe is not enough.”

Coun Hamilton said there is a heavy reliance on ring-fenced grants that are hard to get hold of and backed calls for funding from government.

Council leader Coun Shane Moore said extra funding has been high on his agenda, adding Tees Valley leaders are planning to write to government ministers calling for a meeting.

Coun Brenda Harrison praised children’s services staff and called for the issue to be brought up at the next full council meeting to back writing to the government.

She said: “Funding for children’s services has over the last number of years decreased and decreased and decreased.

“The increase in the need is there as well, so if we go on like this it’s just going to explode.

“We really need to spell it out, we’re going to be in absolute crisis in the next couple of years if we don’t get some help from central government.”

Committee members, however, praised the work done by staff following the annual performance report for children’s social care in the town.

Coun Leisa Smith, chair of the committee, said: “Children’s services do an absolutely outstanding job on such a tight budget and I know our children are looked after.”