A large majority of councils spent more than planned on children’s social care and adult social care last year in an attempt to manage rising demand and an ongoing squeeze on funding, government figures indicate.
LGC analysis of data published by the Department for Communities & Local Government reveals three-quarters of councils invested more than planned on children’s social care in 2015-16, while 65% of the 146 upper tier councils that returned data recorded an overspend on adult social care.
The national overspend on children’s services totalled £565.8m while councils spent £322m more than planned on adult social care.
Nationally, the average overspend on children’s social care was 7.6%, rising to 12% in London.
Rotherham MBC, which is undergoing rapid transformation after a report revealed that 1,400 children were abused in the town over a 16-year period, recorded a £19.6m overpsend (41%).
Ian Thomas, strategic director for children and young people’s services, said Rotherham had expected to spend more than allocated in the budget, but did not know how much until a five-year improvement plan began in May last year.
“In Rotherham specific pressures include increased looked after children placements, more management costs, expenditure on agency staff in social work and additional investment in child sexual exploitation services,” Mr Thomas added.
Hillingdon LBC recorded an 37.4% overspend of (£14.4m), but said two-thirds of the overspend was budgeted for and covered by contingency funds, while the remainder was caused by increased placements and unaccompanied asylum seeking children not being covered by Home Office grant.
Northamptonshire CC also saw a significant overspend on its children’s services and has previously highlighted the pressure on services as a result of large numbers of asylum seeking children arriving in the county as stowaways on lorries traveling up the M1.
LGC reported earlier this year that councils were planning to increase spending on support for asylum seeking children by 11%, or £7.7m in 2016-17.
Recent research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services found the cost of the national living wage combined with ongoing demand ressure on budgets meant councils in England were required to plug a £941m hole in 2016-17 to maintain services at last year’s levels.
The national average overspend in 2015-16 was 2.4%, with London boroughs again reporting the biggest pressures.
Metropolitan councils overspent by an average of 1.8%, but Gateshead MBC recorded a 17.4% underspend of £14.1m.
A spokeswoman said this was partly due to £10.5m of the better care fund being wrongly factored into the council’s budget but retained by the local clinical commissioning group.
Oxfordshire CC recorded a 3.7% adult social care underspend of £6.7m.
Director of adult social services John Jackson said rising demand could not be controlled, but councils were finding ways to make savings in difficult circumstances.
He cited a focus on re-ablement services which support the elderly to recover from illness or injury, with 60% no longer needing care at the end of the program.
But Mr Jackson added: “Councils will have to make more savings this year and the likelihood is that there will be more overspends and it will be a bigger overall figure.”
Majority record social care overspend