Children’s services in Haringey are facing a “perfect storm” due to increased Covid-19 costs and a lack of government funding.

That was cabinet member for early years, children and families Cllr Zena Brabazon’s outlook as council officers forecast a £5.8 million overspend in the children’s budget for the current financial year.

Some £3.9 million of this is due to Covid 19-related costs. Pressures include a higher number of social care placements, increased costs of care, and staffing and legal costs linked to rising child protection cases.

The financial position was set out during a meeting of the children and young people’s scrutiny panel on Thursday, September 23.

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Cllr Brabazon told the panel the “back story” behind the figures was that “it is a perfect storm” and a “question of trying to get more money out of the Government”.

“There just isn’t the money in the system – just like there isn’t the money in adults’ services to meet all the needs,” she added.

The cabinet member told councillors that other local authorities were in similar positions, and that Haringey would carry out its statutory duties to children regardless of any overspend.

She said: “Where we are now is we’ve had a massive pandemic, and I know from our meetings that children’s services will always put the needs of children first. 

“Ann Graham is statutory director and must make the decisions in the interests of the children first. If the budget goes over, it goes over, really. We have to make sure children are safeguarded or in the right settings.”

The figures set out by officers show a steady rise in unit costs for complex social care placements. Panel member Sarah James said it seemed like private providers had local authorities “over a barrel” and asked how councils could “fight back”.

Ann Graham, director of children’s services, said private equity firms were behind some of the provision, and the council was looking to develop its own provision to bring costs down.

Cllr Brabazon also revealed the Government had “outsourced” the cost of secure residential placements from the Ministry of Justice to local authorities, piling more pressure on the budget.

She explained: “When a young person is sent on to secure accommodation, having been through the courts, we have to pay. Those nine places probably reflect that journey through the judiciary, and those costs will be astronomical.”

The financial figures show a £6.6 million projected overspend on the dedicated schools grant (DSG), which is provided by the government to support council-managed schools.

Responding to a further question from Cllr James, Ms Brabazon said the council was working with other authorities to make the case for increased DSG funding but had not had a positive response from the Government.