City’s child care bill will rise by £4m

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An extra £3.9 million will be paid out by Peterborough City Council due to a rise in children needing care.

The council’s cabinet on Monday agreed the money which will be used by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) - the charity which runs the authority’s fostering and adoption services.

The extra care place demand also led to the council needing to spend an additional £647,000 in the last financial year. Two years ago there were approximately 335 children in Peterborough needing care placements, but this has risen to about 380.

Council service director for children and safeguarding Lou Williams said a difficulty in forecasting the demand for care placements and the cost of both agency foster carers and residential care had contributed to the need for more money.

“The growth (in population) is a big factor, but I also think that people who work with children and families are better at spotting things like chronic neglect in children than they were,” he said.

“The numbers of children in care do tend to go up and down, but we’ve seen a steady increase from 355 a year ago.”

Not-for-profit organisation TACT, which is the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, took over the running of council services including fostering and adoption in April 2017 in a 10 year contract.

Mr Williams said TACT has “really improved the quality” of the service and that foster carers say “they have never had the level of support they now have.”

He is also hopeful that TACT will hit targets to recruit 28 new foster carers in the city which will bring down costs, as residential placements for children cost around £180,000 a year, while agency foster carers cost more than double ones from the council.

Peterborough is near the national average for the percentage of children in care looked after by in-house foster carers.

Mr Williams also believes the new Family Safeguarding service, which the council believes is making a difference, will keep the current numbers of children in care stable.

He added: “We are looking for more foster carers and we will provide the best quality support.” Asked how it will pay for the extra money, the council said: “We can cover this vital service with funds from our reserves and we will also mitigate through ongoing efficiency savings.”