Haringey Council forecast to overspend £5.8m on children's services
Simon Allin, LDRS
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Children’s services in Haringey are facing a “perfect storm” due to increased Covid-19 costs and a lack of government funding.
That was cabinet member for children Cllr Zena Brabazon’s assessment as town hall officers forecasted a £5.8 million overspend in the children’s budget for the current financial year.
Some £3.9m of this is due to Covid 19-related costs. Pressures include a higher number of social care placements, increased costs of care, and staffing and legal costs linked to rising child protection cases.
The financial position was set out during a meeting of the children and young people’s scrutiny panel on Thursday (September 23).
Cllr Brabazon told the panel the “back story” behind the figures was that “it is a perfect storm” and a “question of trying to get more money out of the government”.
“There just isn’t the money in the system – just like there isn’t the money in adults’ [services] to meet all the needs,” she added.
The cabinet member told councillors that other local authorities are in similar positions, and that Haringey would carry out its statutory duties to children regardless of any overspend.
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Cllr Brabazon said: “Where we are now is we’ve had a massive pandemic, and I know from our meetings that children’s [services] will always put the needs of children first.
“Ann [Graham] is statutory director and must make the decisions in the interests of the children first. If the budget goes over, it goes over, really. We have to make sure children are safeguarded or in the right settings.”
The figures set out by officers show a steady rise in unit costs for complex social care placements. Panel member Sarah James said it seemed like private providers had local authorities “over a barrel” and asked how councils could “fight back”.
Ann Graham, director of children’s services, said private equity firms were behind some of the provision, and the council was looking to develop its own provision to bring costs down.
Cllr Brabazon also said the government had “outsourced” the cost of secure residential placements from the Ministry of Justice to local authorities, piling more pressure on the budget.
The financial figures show a £6.6m projected overspend on the dedicated schools grant (DSG), which is provided by the government to support council-managed schools.