Hartlepool council chiefs to write to minister over children's social care crisis

Council chiefs are to write to Government ministers after stating the current situation regarding children’s social care ‘cannot be continued’.

Saturday, 14th September 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 14th September 2019, 9:00 am
Hartlepool Civic Centre

The letter requests a meeting with the Government chiefs to discuss the concerns further and what can be done in Hartlepool to support the increasing demands.

It came as Coun Brenda Harrison, who sits on the Children’s Services Committee and served as its chairwoman last year, presented the annual performance report for children’s social care to Hartlepool Borough Council.

She said while the council is performing well, the current situation is not sustainable with funding pressures and increased demands for looked after children.

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Coun Harrison: “The committee felt it was time to send a letter to the minister to express our concerns about the future of children’s social care in Hartlepool.

“We are getting to the point where if something isn’t done our children will be at greater risk than they already are.

“Should the current trajectory of children’s needs continue the council will have exhausted all of its resources in the near future which will impact upon our ability and capacity to keep children safe.

“10 years of austerity has led to a town where children’s needs are becoming greater each year and the capacity of the local authority to respond to these is stretched to the maximum.”

Council chiefs noted the authority is ‘high performing’ in regards to children’s social care, despite funding pressures, and takes its statutory duty very seriously.

In the past four years the council has seen a 77% increase in the number of children in its care, however during the same period the corresponding costs only increased by 45%.

Coun Harrison also noted some of the pressures stem from issues facing adults such as domestic abuse and drug misuse.

She said: “The council have done their best to try and accommodate what is going on.

“There is a high level of need and vulnerability of children in Hartlepool, which then leads to a very high level of demand.

“There is a lot of demand in children’s services stemming from the adult issues such as substance misuse, domestic abuse, which obviously affect the ability of some parents to care for the children properly, they also need supported help.”

Hartlepool has significantly above average numbers of children in need compared both nationally and to neighbouring authorities, according to the report.

Coun Marjorie James requested while normally a draft letter would go out to members for approval, she said it was not required here and it should be sent ‘as soon as possible’, which was approved.