Bolton Council's Care System "Massively Challenged" As Number Of Children Needing Support Rises

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 6:52am

By Joseph Timan - Local Democracy Reporter

The number of looked after children in Bolton has risen to 642 leaving the council’s care system “massively challenged”.

More than half, a total of 327, have fallen into care because child protection orders were issued by judges following instances of child abuse or exposure to domestic violence.

A further 2,430 children are currently being assessed.

Children leaving the care system are outnumbered by those entering it and the number of foster parents is not increasing sufficiently, according to the council.

The total represents an increase of more than 100 children in the past five years, leading some councillors to blame the impact of austerity.

The rising figures mean that every year, the rate of children in care at any one time across the borough is edging closer to one per cent of all children under the age of 18.

The news comes as the council prepares its multi-agency safeguarding plans together with health and police authorities which are set to be published in June.

Cllr Nick Peel told a cabinet meeting on Monday that cuts to preventative measures are “directly linked” to the rising figures.

He said: “It’s hard to think of a worse consequence of austerity.”

Council leader Linda Thomas agreed, saying that “dismantling” preventative services leaves no safety net for vulnerable children.

However, Conservative councillors were keen to point out that the problem is complex, and the blame cannot simply be laid on austerity.

Tory leader David Greenhalgh cited issues with family breakdown, mental illness and other factors that lead to children ending up in care.

His colleague, Cllr Martyn Cox, said that the numbers were already rising before services were cut.

He said: “When more money was going to children’s services, we were struggling with the number of children going into car which was going up. That’s when we were spending more money than ever. There are complex reasons for this.”

He mentioned the impact of the 2008 financial crash as another possible factor contributing to the increasing numbers.

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes acknowledged the impact of child grooming gangs coming to light over the last decade which might have led social workers to put more children in care.

He said: “They possible now look at taking children into car when 15 years ago they probably would have dealt with it by some other means.”

UKIP leader Sean Hornby noted the council’s plans in 2006 to set up a children’s centre in every ward which were thwarted by cuts.

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