Reduced overspend predicted for children's services in Portsmouth

Cllr Rob Wood. Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180470-1)
Cllr Rob Wood. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180470-1)
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COUNCIL officers have managed to save £1m in spending from the over-budget children and families services budget.

Costs have come down at Portsmouth City Council as the department, which last year had a £7.7m overspend, by the use of the authority's own fostering service and fewer external residential placements.

The council is predicting an overall overspend in the portfolio of £1.5m for 2019/20. But this has only come down so much from £7.7m as an extra £4m was injected by the council and an extra £1.3m funding came from a government grant.

But for the council's cabinet member for children and families, Councillor Rob Wood, this was still promising. Speaking at a portfolio meeting last week he said: 'This is a good news story.'

Similar to councils nationwide children's services in Portsmouth are under financial strain. And within the portfolio the highest costs come from looked-after children such as children in care, fostering and asylum-seeking children.

Most of the predicted savings for this year were made due to more children being placed with families through the council's own fostering service, rather than independent fostering agencies.

Cllr Wood said: 'There has been a change in placements from last year, which reduces the costs, including increased numbers in  in-house fostering, and also a reduction in external residential placements.

'Next year we're starting to use the mockingbird family model of fostering - a US model where foster cares provide a support network for other foster carers.

'This will provide even more support for foster carers through arrangements which bring foster carers together and provide support from an experienced carer who doesn't have a child placed with them.'

Any overspend will be subsumed by other council portfolio budgets.