Praise for children’s care services despite projected ‘overspend due to increasing pressure’

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Children’s care bosses have praised the work being done to help vulnerable young people after finance bosses reported a £1.2million overspend.

A financial report to Hartlepool Borough Council children’s services committee forecasted a £549,000 overspend still to be adressed for the council for 2018/19.

As part of this there is a £1.2million forecast overspend in children’s and joint commissioning services, which council bosses said largely reflects ‘continuing and increasing pressures in relation to looked after children’.

Councillors on the children’s services committee praised the work the sector does under tough circumstances.

Sally Robinson, director of children’s and joint commissioning services, said: “We know there’s a pressure on looked after children which has increased dramatically.

“There’s a rising demand for children’s social care resources, there’s a rising demand across the whole system from a root cause of issues.

“We’re doing the best we can to address these needs.”

Chair of the committee, coun Brenda Harrison previously hit out at the government for cuts impacting young people but praised the work being done by staff in Hartlepool.

She said: “It is bleak.

“We don’t want people looking at the looked after children and putting blame on that service [for the overspend].

“We cannot do that, we cannot be seen to be looking at an area like that which is crucial and does a very good job.

“It is one of our really good services and we need that.

“I do believe very strongly the council try all they can to make the best of it.”

Children’s social care services in Hartlepool were rated ‘good’ following an Ofsted inspection earlier this year, with some areas rated ‘outstanding’.

This week council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher signed a letter calling for the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement to provide the funding necessary to avoid a collapse in council services.

He is one of 80 council leaders who signed the letter to the Communities Secretary and said ‘it is time to truly end austerity in Local Government’.

The council also faces a budget deficit for 2019/20 of nearly £6m and the prospect of further budget deficits in 2020/21 to 2021/22.

However finance bosses said the pressures are not just being felt in Hartlepool and many councils have faced problematic issues in this regard including Northamptonshire County Council, East Sussex County Council and Birmingham.

A joint report form the directors of children’s and joint commissioning services and finance and policy explained the problems facing the council.

It said: “The financial pressures facing the council are not unique and national press reports over the last few weeks have highlighted significant financial issues in many councils.

“This clearly indicates the financial pressures facing the sector and individual councils will need to develop local strategies to address their specific financial challenges.

“To some extent the council is in a better position in the short term than many other areas as it has implemented difficult decision over the last few years to cut expenditure, increase recurring income by increasing council tax, achieving housing growth and by carefully managing reserves.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service