Published: 06:00, 09 September 2019
| Updated: 07:30, 09 September 2019
Medway Council spent almost £1 million over its budget for child social care last year, figures reveal.
The Local Government Association is warning that funding is failing to keep up with huge increases in demand, putting vulnerable children and young people at risk.
Medway Council had £42.2 million allocated in its 2018-19 budget for child protection services, social workers and children in care.
But new figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveal that that the council spent £956,000 more than this – reporting a net spend of £43.2 million last year.
This follows a 5% budget cut in the previous year, with Medway's child social services seeing their funding allocation fall by £2.2 million from 2017-18.
In Medway, £14 in every £100 spent on local services in 2018-19 went to children's social care.
Adult and children's social care accounts for almost 30% of councils' service spending across England, more than £25 billion last year.
Of this, £9.3 billion went to children's services – 10% of the total spend.
Overall, councils in England overspent on their children's social care budgets by almost £800 million.
The LGA said that soaring demand and tight budgets have forced councils to divert money away from early intervention services in order to protect children at most immediate risk of harm.
It said around 1,800 referrals are made to children's social services every day – more than one a minute.
Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by.
"That means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that."
Children's charity Barnardo's said it has long warned about "a perfect storm in children's social care".
"Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by..." Cllr Anntoinette Bramble
Chief executive Javed Khan said: "More youngsters are needing help to cope with increasingly complex challenges, while councils are struggling to find the money they need.
"These alarming figures show the lengths councils are having to go in order to be able to provide the help families need, and the Government must urgently address this."
The Department for Education said it was putting an extra £410 million into social care this year, and £84 million over the following five years.
A DfE spokesperson said: "We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential.
"It is essential that we all strive to achieve the highest standard of services for our most vulnerable children."
Cllr Josie Iles (Con), portfolio holder for children’s services said: “We are facing financial challenges, however, we remain committed to ensuring that children across Medway receive the support and care that they need.
"The children’s social care budget is around £36 million this year, £4.5million more than in 2017/2018, including the £2.6million which was allocated to children’s services by the council leader in the budget setting meeting in February, in recognition of the pressures that we are facing in children’s social care.
"Young people are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to ensuring that Medway’s young people receive the best start in life to ensure they reach their full potential.”