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Overspending on children's social care services soars by 10%

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Councils overspent on children’s social care services by 10% last year while there was a slight underspend on adult social care compared to what had previously been predicted, the latest official figures reveal.

The overspend in children’s social care in 2017-18 (£816.5m) is the biggest in each of the last four years, according to LGC’s analysis of councils’ projected and actual spends on services.

The underspend in adult social care in 2017-18 – down £274.2m on what councils had expected to spend – comes after overspends in each of the last four years, including a 3.7% overspend (£525.8m) in 2016-17.

LGC’s analysis of figures councils supply to the government shows that metropolitan districts overspent the most (£233.9m) on children’s services in 2017-18 followed by shire counties (£224.7m).

Proportionately, London boroughs overspent the most on children’s services compared to what they had predicted to spend at the start of the financial year.

Spending on children’s social care 2017-18    
Council type  Expected spend (£bn) Actual spend (£bn) Difference (£m) Percentage difference
England  £8,027,601  £8,844,155  £816.555 10%
London boroughs  £1,476,233  £1,685,143  £208.910 14%
Metropolitian districts  £1,946,948  £2,180,884  £233.935 12%
Unitary authorities  £1,931,048  £2,080,479  £149.431 8%
Shire counties  £2,671,335  £2,896,057  £224.723 8%

Councils say the overspends in children’s social care are due to escalating demand for services.

Figures from the County Councils Network show the extent to which demand has risen within its members’ children’s services over the past few years, driving overspends. The number of vulnerable children in county areas (including the nine unitary members of CCN) placed under a child protection plan – which means they are at significant risk of harm – was 25,259 in 2017. This compares with 18,702 in 2011 – a 35% rise.

The number of children taken into care in England’s counties stood at 26,000 in 2017 (over half of the country’s entire total), compared to 22,600 in 2011 – a 15% increase.

CCN said the total overspend on children’s services for its members was £264m.

CCN chair Paul Carter (Con), who is also Kent CC leader, said: “Today’s figures show the stark reality facing counties, who have had little choice but to overspend millions on vital care services to protect the vulnerable and elderly.

“In a climate of rising demand, inflation and substantial funding reductions imposed by central government, counties have delivered extraordinary efficiencies, but without extra resource the worst is yet to come in service cutbacks to prevent such huge margins of overspend in statutory services.

“Demand-led costs largely beyond our control mean that county authorities face funding pressures of £3.2bn over the next two years. This is compounded by the fact our councils receive 62% less funding per head compared to London. Overspending on certain services means that cuts will need to be made to other vital services, or taken from reserves. These two approaches are unsustainable.”

LGC analysis last October revealed how demand on children’s social care services was proportionally putting greater pressure on councils’ spending plans than adult services.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • it will be more interesting to know if spending increased by this much or just spending against budgets. A lot of budgets are set below trend level so its not the same

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