The cost of caring for vulnerable children has significantly increased because of the need to continue to protect and support the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.
Enfield Council has been forced to place more children in care into expensive residential provision as there are not enough foster carers to meet their needs. There has also been a sharp rise in costs associated with personalised care packages to support children and families within the community.
As a direct result of COVID-19 there are increasing risks for those living in households where domestic abuse is prevalent.
The Council has responded quickly developing a specialist domestic abuse hub and free-phone helpline 0800 923 9009 to reach out to those suffering domestic abuse increasing safe opportunities for those most in need to make contact and get help.
But the spiralling costs of providing this level of care and support has led the Council to warn the Government needs to fully find the extra expenditure or face the prospect of the Council needing to make savings elsewhere to make up the shortfall.
Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Rick Jewell, said: “We are incurring significant costs in ensuring our most vulnerable children are protected from the impact of COVID-19 and rightly so – because it is the right thing to do.
“However, there is a significant financial cost to the Council in providing more residential provision for children in care, increasing personalised care packages for children and young people and developing services to respond to high levels of domestic abuse related to COVID-19.
“We want the Government to fulfil its promise ‘to stand shoulder to shoulder with local government’ and provide funding to fully cover all of the costs and future pressures we have incurred in dealing with COVID-19 so that we can continue to deliver vital services and support our communities through this challenging time.
“If that does not happen it may mean the Council may need to cut vital services and could reduce the Council’s ability to respond effectively to future emergencies and support local communities, if that happens, our most vulnerable residents may not get the vital support they need.”
Despite having to make £178 million savings in the last 10 years because of Government budget cuts and increasing pressures on services, Enfield Council has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing comprehensive community and business support and essential services to protect local people and businesses
While Enfield Council has already spent an extra £4.5m dealing with the impact of coronavirus so far, Council leaders are concerned that with costs continuing to rise, Councils need more support to ride out the coronavirus crisis.
Enfield Council is forecasting financial pressures of £68m as a result of the impact of the coronavirus. The Government has pledged £17.9m in response so far, leaving an estimated shortfall in funding of £45m (taking into account capital financing savings and allocation of reserves).