EFFORTS are being made to cut the number of children placed in care in the county among warnings that councils are reaching ‘breaking point’ as they struggle to cope.

Herefordshire has a high ratio of children in care compared to most other councils, new figures show, and as numbers rise, so do costs.

New figures show the county had 333 ‘looked after children’ under the age of 18 in 2019, up more than 60 on five years ago.

The cost is given at £15.7m, and the latest forecast from the council was that it would overspend by more than £2m this financial year on children’s services.

Questions have been asked about why Herefordshire has a higher than average ratio. Out of every 10,000 children under 18, Herefordshire places an average of 92 in care. The English average is way below that at 65.

In comparison, Neighbouring Shropshire has a ratio of 66 and Worcestershire 71.

In fact the county comes out in 37th place in a table of just over 150 authorities for those who are most likely to place children in care.

Herefordshire council say Ofsted inspectors have found no cases of children in care in the county who should not be there.

But the council has created a panel to assess individual cases and check whether they are being ‘too cautious’ when they plan to put a child in care and if there are other alternatives.

The Local Government Association say the system is reaching breaking point with the number of children in care rising by 28 per cent in the past decade.

They want more money from government spent on intervening earlier before a family reaches crisis point.

Herefordshire Council agree and say they are allocating more resources to early support.

“Support and funding is needed for schools, health services and community and voluntary services to provide early help.

“Increasing numbers also mean a requirement for more social workers and support staff .”

There were six unaccompanied asylum seeking children being cared for in the county in 2019.