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Children's services hit by budget cutbacks
Government cutbacks have cost children’s services in Herefordshire about £3 million over the past year.
Vacancies in children’s social care and the ongoing need to use agency social workers has put pressure on both budgets and workloads in the county.
Location, pay and house prices mean the council finds it tough to attract the experienced social workers it needs while its recruitment of newly-qualified social workers is higher than many other authorities.
The only obvious ease to the squeeze is an increase in grants over the coming year that brings the overall required budget reduction down to £700,000 from £1.2m.
Against this background, the council has admitted that delivering effective children’s services in the current financial climate creates a “considerable challenge”.
Net reductions in the children’s services budget from 2010/11 to 2011/12 amount to about £3m as a result of central government grant cuts.
Last year, the safeguarding service alone overspent by nearly £1.4m, directly related to the increasing numbers of children coming into the council’s care and offset only by £435,000 of additional funding.
The number of those children now stands at 232 compared to 210 last year, while the number of youngsters subject to a child protection plan topped 214 by January this year, up from 177 at the same time the previous year and recognised as a significantly higher level than similar authorities.
For more see this week’s Hereford Times.