Local authority overspends threaten growth of preventive services

A lack of central government funding is threatening investment in the whole preventive agenda which underpins Every Child Matters, local government leaders have warned.

A report released last week by the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Social Services looking at local authority budgets for 2005/06 reveals that children’s services are expected to go £100m over-budget.

Responding to the news, ADSS president Julie Jones said: “Directors have expressed growing concerns about legitimate cost pressures across adult social care and children’s services.

“We are being asked to respond positively to the Every Child Matters agenda by reinvesting in prevention, but with budgets so stretched it is difficult to see how we can make the shift without additional resources.”

The overspend in children’s services has been largely attributed to an increase in demand for looked after services, and particularly foster care. Almost two-thirds of local authorities reported increased demand for agency foster care, despite rising prices. Many councils also face additional costs in relation to the care of the 12,942 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across the country.

There is also pressure from the centre on councils to make efficiency savings. An LGA spokesperson said councils were planning to make £220m in savings over the next financial year but that this, coupled with rising demands for services, had left some authorities with some “deeply worrying problems”.

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