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Children in care numbers forecast for shock 10 per cent rise
THE numbers of children in care across Worcestershire are forecast to rise more than 10 per cent over two years, it has emerged.
Despite huge cuts elsewhere, another £2.4 million is being poured into the looked-after children’s budget in 2014 to avoid a looming crisis.
Worcestershire County Council says the number of troubled youngsters being subject to court orders for care has been steadily rising.
The number of children in care was 633 at the start of this year, but up to last month had climbed to 657.
A new report predicts that it will hit 671 by next April, and rise to 707 by April 2015, placing massive pressure on the authority.
If that proves to be correct the rise would have hit 11 per cent in just over two years.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, says the current £22m budget is “not strong enough” for protecting vulnerable children.
It comes amid national concern from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) that the economy’s problems are contributing to an increase nationwide.
County Hall’s predictions are based on the trends from data going back to 2011, as well as Worcestershire’s birth rate and population growth.
Coun Hardman said: “This is a real area of focus for the council and rightly so - the extra money is part of a package we’re investing into protecting the vulnerable.
“I have come to the conclusion that the base budget we’ve got at the moment just isn’t strong enough, and we can’t afford to get it wrong. If the base budget is wrong we must say so.
“There are more children going into care, courts are giving more orders and our social workers are dealing with it in a pragmatic and sensible way.”
Earlier this year your Worcester News revealed how 30 extra social workers are being recruited at County Hall to help beef up the service.
Then last month it emerged that cash windfalls up to £4,000 were being made available for new staff to allow Worcestershire to steal a march in rival councils, particularly in Birmingham and the Black Country.
It comes despite wide ranging cuts to other services at the council, including well over 600 job losses, to save £98m by 2017.
John Cameron, head of child protection operations at the NSPCC, said: “We know when things are financially tough it can lead to greater stress which means more cases come to the attention of already over-stretched social services.”