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Care crisis for children gets “significantly” worse

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Care crisis for children gets

THE residential care crisis for children in Dumfries and Galloway has become “significantly” worse over the last nine months, it has been revealed.

There is a desperate demand for residential care places in the region, but not enough locations available.

Private placements outwith the area are at sky high rates – and in many cases there are not enough care staff to look after young people needing care.

Over the last nine months, the number of secure placements for youngsters and additional support required for them reached levels that are “unheard of” for Dumfries and Galloway.

The seriousness of the situation was highlighted at the council’s social work committee as councillors discussed how child care placements are projected to cost a staggering £6.1m in the next financial year – around £1.7m more than anticipated.

Alison Penman, a social work manager with the council, told the committee that there had been a “significant increase over the last nine months” of young people requiring residential placements.

This, coupled with a large rise in costs for placements, has resulted in the inflated bill.

She continued: “This has caused much more of an overspend than was predicted.

“The reasons for the increase in need of placements are largely as a result of increasingly complex from our families, service pressures across the partnership areas in relation to education and health also, and the fact that there is a national crisis in relation to residential placements.

“But more importantly there’s a national crisis in relation to residential staff. So, we sometimes find ourselves with beds available across Scotland, but not the residential staff.”

She also explained there has been an unexpected rise in secure placements needed, adding: “We would predict two to three placements required for secure care a year, but at one point over the last nine months we had five young people in secure care, which is completely unheard of for us.

“We are back down to two at this point. As well as that, some of the children we have in residential care have significant need which requires us having to purchase additional support for them whilst they are in placement.”

To address these placement issues and ease pressures on burnt-out overworked social staff, the department proposed measures including setting up a dedicated kinship care team, to provide additional support for kinship carers and help children remain with their family.

The team, which will cost £305,000 per year, would also relieve pressure on the overstretched family placement team and area social work teams.

Introducing ten intensive support foster carers in Dumfries and Galloway at a cost of £413,000 was another proposal put forward.

Councillors agreed that all of these measures and associated costs should be considered as part of the budget setting process next week.

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