Norfolk County Council counts the cost of failure to cut number of children in care
- Credit: Submitted
A failure to hit targets to cut the number of children in care by hundreds is helping fuel a projected £9.3m overspend in a key council department.
Norfolk County Council currently has about 1,050 looked after children, compared to 1,112 in September 2014, but the council had aimed for the figure to fall to 770 by March 2017.
Roger Smith, chairman of the children's services committee, described the number of looked after children as 'the elephant in the room' when councillors discussed a report about the department's finances last week.
He said: 'It's impacting on our social work, and it's impacting on our finances, and I don't think we can let it go with two short paragraphs.'
The department's projected £9.3m overspend for 2016-17, which could be reduced by £2.3m by a one-off use of reserves, includes a forecast £4.7m overspend on agency residential care for children in care, as well as another projected £1.8m overspend on agency fostering for children in care.
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Michael Rosen, executive director of children's services, blamed an increase in demand for the service, and said Norfolk was doing well compared to Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, which both had 'a steady increase' in numbers.
He added: 'If you look at the budget, it's based on some predictions made between two or three years ago, based on the number of looked after children we have, and those predictions have not come out as predicted.
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'In that sense you might say it was a deficiency in the planning, but we have to put that in the context of the national increase in demand.'
He said the council had to 'learn the lessons in not accepting assumptions from the past'.
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