CARE for young people who need help is being put under pressure due to a huge increase in demand coupled with funding shortages.

These are the worries of the Local Government Association (LGA) which has said the number of children in care has reached a 10-year high – rising by 28 per cent in the last decade.

But while Northumberland has seen a rise in children in care along with the rest of the country, it sits below the national average according to the latest figures from the Department for Education.

The number of children in local authority care in the county has risen from 363 in 2015 to 370 in 2019 – an increase of 1.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, nationally there has been an increase of 12.5 per cent from 69,470 children in 2015 to 78,150 in 2019.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “In Northumberland, we are committed to supporting children to remain with their families wherever possible, ensuring that it is safe and right for them.

“We have developed and embedded a range of services through our Early Help offer to support families to address any difficulties at an early stage where appropriate. We have introduced a practice model to support social workers and families identify any risks and support needs and how we then work together with families to make sure children are safe. Further to this, we have developed and commissioned a range of services for additional support where children are at risk of entering care.”

But the pressures caused by the increase in numbers across the country is an issue of concern for the LGA. Coun. Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade.

“This is unsustainable. Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.”

The LGA said it believed the Government’s manifesto promise of a review of the children’s social care system was a great opportunity for them to work with councils as well as schools, social workers and foster carers to improve the system.

“Councils need to be given a seat at the table for the care system review, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure this looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference,” continued Coun. Blake.

“It needs to ensure that children’s services are fully funded and councils can not only support those children who are in care, but provide the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.”

The Department for Education figures revealed that Northumberland’s spending on looked after children had increased from £16,699,000 to £19,396,000 over the four years from 2015 to 2019.

The LGA said councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800m last year in order to try and keep children safe, despite allocating more money than the previous year to try to keep up with demand.

And the latest data shows children over 10 years old account for 63 per cent of all in care, with teenagers being six times more likely than younger children to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, which the LGA said was significantly more expensive than foster care.