'Growth in demand for children's services' in Sheffield putting pressure on council's budget, says report

Looking after Sheffield’s most vulnerable children is putting significant financial pressure on the council’s budget, documents have shown.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 10th February 2020, 4:00 pm

Officers say that in recent years the focus has been on adult social care but there has been a historic underfunding of children’s social care.

There has been a big growth in demand for children’s services over recent years, to the point where it is becoming a significant risk to council finances.

In the council’s draft budget, officers say: “The increasing demand pressures on social care, both adults and children’s, are widely recognised, not just in Sheffield, but across the country.

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Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

“While increased funds have been provided by government for social care for 2020/21, these additional funds will not compensate for the larger national funding cuts imposed over the previous decade.

“To date, all additional funding provided for social care has been focused on adult social care and in particular on NHS related services for older people and delayed discharges from hospital.

“However growth in demand for children’s social care services has significantly increased over recent years and is quickly becoming acknowledged as the most significant financial risk.”

The council says extra social care funding will help but will not be sufficient to meet the forecast increase in demand for services in the coming years.

“Additional focused resources are needed from central government to adequately protect these services and the children supported by them.

“The historic and current underfunding of children’s social care has, and will continue to, result in the diversion of budget from other council services to ensure effective delivery.

“Should no new investment from central government be forthcoming after 2020/21, the service is likely to become reliant on temporary funding sources such as reserves.”

Despite this, the council has managed to fund new initiatives and support families, including reducing referrals to social care and the number of children entering the care system by delivering earlier support.

It has redesigned services to ensure the right resources are available to children taken into care and has ensured the service has the right number of trained staff.