A MASSIVE increase in demand for the council to help Wirral’s vulnerable youngsters is bringing the borough’s children’s services to breaking point, its boss warned today.

The number of children in care in Wirral is now at its highest ever level with more than 800 youngsters currently being looked after by the authority.

Councillor Bernie Mooney, Labour cabinet member for children’s services, said the effects of austerity continue to hurt those most in need.

She claimed this was a crisis not just for Wirral but the whole country.

But Tory politicians said Labour is blaming others for their own mistakes.

Wirral's children's services has been under the microscope after a highly-critical inspection by watchdog Ofsted, which branded the department as "inadequate" - its lowest possible rating.

Now Cllr Mooney is calling on Chancellor Philip Hammond to use his budget next month to deal with what is set to become a major issue for councils up and down England.

She said: “This level of need and demand for services from our most vulnerable children and families has never been seen before.”

The number of "looked after children" in England and Wales reached 72,670 in the year leading to March 2017, while throughout England, three-quarters of councils exceeded their budgets for children’s services – a total overspend of £605m.

In the past decade the number of young people subject to child protection inquiries has increased by 140% – to 170,000 – while at the same time money for early interventions to help families before their problems become more serious has fallen dramatically.

Cllr Mooney added: “Seven years of austerity, of seeing funding for the early intervention services these families rely on being taken away by the Government, has created a situation where children are suffering.

“Since the Conservative Government took office, there has been a steady reduction in early intervention services for children. Family support services have been cut to the bone and children’s centres have been shutting at a rate of six per month in the UK.

“Our children’s services in Wirral have gone through a challenging time recently, to say the least.

"I can see how hard people are working, I can see the improvements we are making every day, and I am so proud of the efforts of our staff who are working under almost imaginable pressure.

“It’s not enough, unfortunately. We are now in a position where we need £25m of extra funding just to meet the increased demand for our services.

"We are fixing the issues which Ofsted found at pace, we are recruiting additional quality to our workforce with experienced social workers and we are looking at how we can improve services at every level for our children, young people and their families in this borough."

Tory group leader Cllr Ian Lewis told the Globe: “To suddenly find a £25m black hole in the finances of the department and try to pin it on an extra 100 children taken into care is nonsense. 

"The budget for children’s services in Wirral is set by the cabinet in Wirral. 

"Blaming others just doesn’t cut it.

“Wirral has twice as many children taken in to care as other similar councils. 

"That means children more are being passed around the system, sent out of the borough or even lost track of all together. While this is expensive to the taxpayer what’s even worse is that it is also really damaging for the child."

He continued: "At the very time when they need love, care and stability, our most vulnerable young people have been failed by poor local decision making. 

“The failings in this department are a reflection of poor management and political direction locally.

"Councillor Mooney acknowledged this when she was appointed,  telling us that ‘heads will roll’ in the department. Six months later, it seems the cabinet is reverting to the same old finger pointing instead of taking responsibility.”      


In Wirral; 120 children in care per 10,000, double the average in England for 2016

810 children in care today

53% of children in care aged 10-15, the average in England is 30%

In the UK, from 2010-2016, children assessed as being ‘in need’ – 5% increase

Children with a ‘child protection plan’ – 29% increase

Children in care - 10% increase