Doncaster Children's Services Trust forecasts multi-million pound deficit

Doncaster Children's Services Trust
Doncaster Children's Services Trust

An increase in the number of young people being referred to children’s services in Doncaster has left the trust with a multi-million pound deficit.

An increase in the number of young people being referred to children’s services in Doncaster has left the trust with a multi-million pound deficit.

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, an independent body who work closely with the council and Government, has forecast an overspend of £2.9 million. The trust’s budget for the year was set at £46.3m.

Bosses claim the financial difficulty has arisen due to the ‘number and level of complexity of children in care’ which has ‘continued to rise’ throughout 2017/2018.

Figures show at the end of March 2018 the number of children under the trust’s care stands at 555.

DCST have just £70,000 in reserves and the rest will be assumed to be met by Doncaster Council. This includes £1.65m of business cases agreed, £940,000 reported in quarter three and £330,000 from reserves.

The trust has now established a ‘medium term financial strategy’ over the next three years alongside a ‘capital strategy’ and ‘agreed funding’ with Doncaster Council for a capital programme to invest in ‘operational assets and ICT systems and equipment’. This is intended to save £4.5m.

In a report sent to an overview and scrutiny management committee at Doncaster Council, Lee Yale-Helms, director of finance at the children’s trust, said: “The trust is not alone in this and it has been widely reported that local authorities up and down the country are struggling to cope with the demand pressures in children’s services.

“A recent survey by the Core Cities and coordinated by Sheffield Council revealed that the level of overspend in Doncaster is comparable to other Yorkshire and metropolitan areas.”

Both the number of cases and the financial position has been subject to series of meetings between both authorities.

Additional monitoring measures have been agreed between the council and the trust as a result.

DCST was set up in 2014 after the previous service was taken out of council control by the Government following years of child protection failures.

In January, the service was rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted for the first time.

Jo Miller, chief executive of Doncaster Council, said: “Both the council and trust recognise these are challenging times but there is only one pot of money and we are working together to ensure we achieve a more sustainable financial position in the future.”