POOR parenting, neglect and emotional abuse, often associated with substance misuse and domestic violence, has led to a rise in the number of children put into care, according to the leader of Fife Council.
Alex Rowley’s damming verdict was made after shocking figures were outlined which showed that, from 2006 until the end of December 2012, the number of children looked after by the local authority had risen by more than a third from 626 to 866.
He also highlighted that, owing to an increasing number of younger children being placed in council care through the Children’s Hearing system, pressure on the social work budget is growing, with a projected overspend of almost £1.8 million in this area.
“This is a national problem but we are facing a very real and very shocking situation where we have over 850 children in Fife being looked after by the council,” said Cllr Rowley.
“This is not just about money – it’s not acceptable that these numbers are continuing to rise and this is an issue that should concern everyone in our communities.
“The council is struggling to cope with the results of social deprivation and it’s therefore vital that we change the emphasis of our investment to tackle these problems at their source.”
To tackle the problem, the council is having to invest £7.5 million into helping families who are struggling to overcome difficulties, focusing on reducing inequalities in deprived areas and improving the quality of life for all children to help them develop to their full potential.
Cllr Rowley continued: “We have to get to the root of these issues – influencing the home environment and supporting children and parents together.
“Our commitment to Fifers is that no child will ever be left at risk and colleagues in social work are looking at ways to manage these current budget pressures.”
Meanwhile, the strain of increasing demand on social work services is also being felt in providing support to older people in Fife.
An overspend of over £2 million is predicted in this area as costs rise in residential, home care and more complex care packages.