SOARING running costs have prompted serious concerns around providing childrens services in Reading, as budget predictions revealed more than £1 million extra could be needed to continue support.

Childrens services involve providing social care, early years assistance, educational services, supporting those with special educational needs and disabilities and providing school transport.

In Reading, these services are run by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), a company created by Reading Borough Council in December 2018.

But the cost of the services are going above expectations.

BFfC is funded by the council, which spends an  average of approximately £47,751,000 per financial year on the services BFfC provides.

That average is based on figures from the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 to 2024/25, which was agreed at a full council meeting in February.

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However, recently it was revealed that BFfC are currently forecasting net budget pressures totalling  £1.761 million.

This includes £500,000 due to pay inflation, £490,000 costs for transport due to fuel price inflation, £393,000 due to demand on Childrens Social Care, and £384,000 due to the use of agency staff.

Although the total budget pressures are actually calculated at £2.161m, that is offset by £550,000 in savings and £400,000 of funding from the government’s Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Grant.

Concerns about the mounting costs of childrens services were raised in a question by Councillor Doug Creswell (Green, Katesgrove) who asked for an update on the financial status of BFfC and what the implications would be on services.

His question was answered by Graeme Hoskin, lead councillor for children.

Cllr Hoskin (Labour, Norcot) replied: “Most of our Children services relates to Children looked after and social work and is an area under financial pressure due to our demographics, demand on services and difficulties in recruiting permanent social workers.

“In addition, high fuel costs and increasing demand for Home to School Transport is also an area of ongoing pressure.

“The Company is working tirelessly to manage these pressures.

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“What this means is that Reading’s Children’s services are not insulated by the huge difficulties facing upper tier councils in England to fund services in the face of underfunding from 12 years of Conservative governments.

“This situation is becoming more urgent as a result of the inflationary and demographic pressures mentioned above.

“There are wholly inadequate levels of funding available for Children’s Services in England and in Reading.

“We will work tirelessly to deliver the best possible services with the funding we have and work to deliver the best possible budget for the council in February.

“What is really required is the removal of our failing government (this feels like an understatement) through a general election now.”

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Cllr Hoskin also quoted the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, who stated: “The idea that further efficiency savings can be made is both fanciful and deeply worrying.”

The exchange took place at an adult social care, childrens services and education committee meeting on October 19.

The council has budgeted approximately £48,251,000 for BFfC this financial year.

The estimated £1.761m in budget pressures was revealed in a report to the council’s audit and governance committee on September 28.