THURROCK Council has been forced to defend the spiralling cost of childcare after it was revealed nearly £2million is being spent on just ten cared-for-children every year.
By 2014, the department of Children’s Social Care is projected to be £3million over-budget, with one cared-for child currently costing tax payers nearly £280,000.
There are 257 cared-for-children in Thurrock, with ten costing at least £175,000 a year to look after.
The council often buys placements in children’s homes, most at a cost of around £3,500 per week, with more than 50 per cent of Thurrock’s fostered children are living outside the borough.
A spokesman for the authority has pointed to an increase of care proceedings cases following the economic downturn and Baby P case and “an increased national profile for long-term neglect cases” as the reason why pressures on children’s social care have increased.
But Cllr James Halden, the Conservative spokesman for Children’s Social Care said the council’s current spending is not sustainable and called for a public debate.
Cllr Halden, pictured, said: “Are we just using the first companies we come across and does that represent value for money?
“It’s not enough to say what we’re spending, we have to say how it’s being spent. This means constituents will never know what we’re doing with their money or how we are looking after children.
“If a child has complex needs then I would fight tooth and nail for the right care to be in place. But if we don’t have this discussion the situation will become untenable.”
When asked about this at full council last week, Oliver Gerrish, the council member responsible for Children’s Social Care said: “In our Ofsted inspection last year, we were judged “good” on our work with children in care and the report of that inspection should give members confidence in our practise.
“I am satisfied the council is striving to make the best possible placements for children in our care.”
A council spokesman said: “Thurrock Council has a duty to look after children.
“The costs are national and there is nothing unusual about those in Thurrock. These are in units with high levels of staff and often where additional services, such as education and therapeutic support, are needed, bearing in mind some children are the victims of the most horrific forms of abuse.
“Some of the higher costs relate to children with disabilities who have very specific needs.
“The council is vigilant in making the best care plan for each child.”