A COUNCIL is having to find nearly £2 million from its reserves to meet the costs of placements for children taken into care.

The cost of children's services to Powys council is running more than £1.8 million above its £26 million budget, according to the council's most recent financial report.

Councillors have been told the need to fund care placements is driving the cost over budget.

Cllr Amanda Jenner, who is the chairman of the Health and Care scrutiny committee, told the council's cabinet that in a confidential meeting with children’s service chiefs her committee had been briefed on the situation. 

Cllr Jenner said:  “I can confirm the committee were informed of a small number of children with the most complex of needs.”

Cllr Jenner told cabinet that the children’s team had tried to find “suitable and affordable” placements for these children, but it had been “impossible.”

Cllr Jenner said: “In addition we were made aware that all local authorities are competing for the same type of placements and provision."

She explained that on a national scale – there aren’t enough places to cope with the demand.

Cllr Jenner said that councillors had been “shocked” by the case backgrounds and the levels of costs involved.

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Earlier this week research predicted the number of chidren in care in England could reach nearly 100,000 by 2025 leading to greater pressure on local authority budgets.

As Welsh councils often use residential care places in England they too will be hit by the greater demand for places and the emotional and wellbeing impact on children and their families.

The annual conference of the County Councils Network, in England, was told social services chiefs are struggling with an increasing number of children placed in residential care and for longer periods.

According to Cllr Jenner the Powys scrutiny committee were also “surprised” that the health board was not helping pay for these mental health care costs.

Cllr Jenner added that she would be inviting representatives of Powys Teaching Health Board to a future committee meeting to discuss “collaborative working” and the mental health support that’s provided to children in the county.

“It’s unquestionable not to provide the support needed, it’s court endorsed and needed to keep some of our most vulnerable children safe,” said Cllr Jenner

Powys’ head of finance, Jane Thomas said: “It’s important to note that when a budget is set at the beginning of the year it is an estimate of where we expect things to be, but they do change."

Ms Thomas said if or when that money is released will be reviewed later in the financial year.

The decision was approved unanimously by cabinet. Funding transfers, up to a maximum of £1.854 million from the council's budget management reserve, will go to a full council meeting to be decided.

A spokesman for Powys Teaching Health Board said: “We continue to work with in partnership with Powys County Council so that together, we ensure that children and young people in Powys receive care that is safe and effective.”

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