£5.4 million overspend by Shropshire Council children's department
Shropshire Council's children’s services department has overspent by nearly £5.4 million this year, but will be asked to make cuts of nearly half of that amount next year.
Department chief Karen Bradshaw told the council’s people overview committee that demographic changes were increasing demand, and the authority had to “look at how we do things differently” in response.
She said it was important to prevent young people entering the care system, where possible, as “it’s much better when children are being supported with their parents”.
Opposition councillor Kevin Pardy said extra central government funding was “the only way” to relieve budget pressures, and urged senior officers and the cabinet to lobby Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski for help.
Ms Bradshaw, Shropshire Council’s director of children and young people’s services, told the committee its approved budget for 2019-20 was £49.8m, but added “we expect to overspend by £3.8m in children’s social care and £1.6m in learning and skills”.
After the overspends, the authority expects to spend £55.2m, but the department’s proposed budget for 2020-21 is £53.3m.
The children’s social care section will be asked to make £2.5m worth of savings, while learning and skills will be cut by £100,000.
“We have been asked to look at how we do things differently to make sure we make those £2.6m savings,” Ms Bradshaw said.
“What we can’t just keep doing is reacting to the demand. That is what we’re doing at the moment.
“I think we’re very clear that, in order to be able to reduce some of these high costs, we have to reduce the demand, otherwise we just keep absorbing that. We’ve got to be doing something differently.”
Councillor Ed Potter, the cabinet member responsible for children’s services in the Conservative-run authority, said: “Our outcomes for young people are the priority. Trying to prevent young people entering the care system is the priority.”
Ms Bradshaw added: “It’s much better when children are being supported with their parents than us dealing with them at a higher, more intrusive level.”
Labour councillor Kevin Pardy said: “The only way we’re going to deal with this sort of thing is to get extra funding from government.
“I’m hoping you are there, talking to Daniel Kawczynski, and others in Shropshire who can influence this sort of thing.”