Increase in vulnerable children being moved out of Rotherham hits council finances

Prof Alexis Jay with her shock report
Prof Alexis Jay with her shock report

More vulnerable children are being moved out of Rotherham into care placements away from the town – with the council facing a £2.8m overspend in its young people’s budget as a result.

There are currently 32 children in out-of-authority residential placements – where children are moved to care homes in different parts of the country, often to safeguard them from abusers.

The average number of placements has increased from 25 in 2013/14.

More than 400 children from Rotherham are classed as being ‘looked after’ by the council, with more than 280 in foster care.

A report going to Coun Christine Beaumount, cabinet member for children and education services, today said the authority’s children and young people’s service is expecting to overspend by £2.8m on its £43.1m budget this financial year – largely as a result of extra spending on looked-after children.

Concerns were raised about the practice of using out-of-area placements to protect abused children in the Jay report.

The inquiry said while the strategy could be successful in some cases, there were other occasions where such placements actually increased the risks to children.

Professor Jay called for a new strategic approach to placements, including risk assessments and closer working with other councils.

She said: “Unless councils can develop sound strategic agreements with other authorities, these children will continue to be exploited and abused and may become the conduit for perpetrators to gain access to other children in the same placement.”

The council budget report said there is an expected £2.5m overspend in the cost of providing out of authority residential placements, and extra costs of £221,000 in paying for independent fostering placements.

But the budgetary problems have been partly offset by a £34,000 underspend on remand placements.

It follows a £1.6m overspend in the 2013/14 financial year.

It added placements are now being reviewed to ‘help mitigate these pressures’.

The report said plans to recruit extra foster carers and more adoptive families are being pursued to help tackle costs.

But it added: “The budget need can only be an estimate given its volatile nature. For example, one out of authority residential placement for a child with very complex needs can now cost up to £364,000 per annum.”