BOROUGH chiefs are hopeful that a tax increase for children’s social care will help transform the service for Cheshire East’s most vulnerable youngsters.

Cheshire East Council is due to approve its budget for next year at a full council meeting on February 21 – including a 2.99 per cent tax increase.

One per cent of that increase will be ringfenced to meet increasing demands on the council’s services for young people.

Cllr Jos Saunders, cabinet member for children and families, said: “In recent years we have had a rise in the number of children going in to care.

“The majority of these are by court orders, so we then have a duty to give them the best care and attention that we can.

“We are not an outlier – this situation is being faced throughout the country.”

The local authority has also seen an increase in demand for services to help children with ‘high needs’ – which can require specialist education, adding pressure on the transport budget by taking children to schools which are further away from where they live.

Last year, CEC and NHS groups in the borough were hit by a joint inspection from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, which highlighted problems in the borough’s provision for youngsters with special educational needs (SEN).

But in next year’s budget, the council is planning to make significant investments to boost the service.

Cllr Saunders said: “We are increasing our SEN placements – realigning our children’s services funding to the tune of over £700,000.

Knutsford Guardian:

“We are increasing £500,000 on SEN key workers, educational psychologists etc. Those are the people who do the health and care plans, and we need to have those – not only in a timely fashion, but quality is of the essence.

“A local authority not that far from us was doing them in a timely fashion, but the quality was not there. We want to have both.”

CEC is also set to fund nine additional social workers, increase SEN school places and open four more residential homes for children in care.

The council is also set to invest in its Family Focus Team, with plans to work with 1,900 ‘troubled families’.

It will receive £1,000 up front for each family it works with, and an extra £800 if it has achieved its targets – with the cash to be reinvested in youth work.

Ultimately, the council hopes this proactive work will save it money in the long-term, by having the most effective support prepared for them later in life.

Cllr Janet Clowes, cabinet member for adult social care and integration, added: “We are starting those conversations now with children and their families from 14 years old.

“It means that by the time they reach 19 to 25 they are known to adult’s services and we have already started to build together the care packages that will best meet their adult needs.”

CEC’s tax increase for 2019-20 is equal to an extra 78p per week for the average household – with council tax for Band D properties rising from £1,404.28 to £1,446.27 for the year in April.