* RISING numbers of children have been taken into care in Barnsley through the months of the pandemic, the Chronicle , can reveal.

The number of those being looked after has exceeded the council’s targets - and the budget for next year has been subsequently increased to tackle the pressures.

At the end of the 2020/21 financial year, 309 children who are accommodated by the local authority were in family placements, according to a cabinet report.

The report - discussed on Wednesday - lays bare the impact of Covid-19 on care services and reveals the figure was above the target of 300.

One high-cost secure welfare placement costs £6,500 a week, while the average gross cost of children in care - per week - has risen by 7.7 per cent to £857.

Executive director of children’s services, Mel John-Ross, says the aim is to keep young people with their families wherever possible and enter care only as a last resort.

“The situation in Barnsley has been exacerbated by the increase in demand for placements within borough from other local authorities,” she added.

“For a small borough, Barnsley has a disproportionally high number of children in care placed in the borough by other local authorities with 252 placed as of March 31.

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“This has made it more difficult to source independent placements locally and impacts on universal, specialist and targeted service provision within the borough. * ,

, “Barnsley has seen a rise in the number of children that have become looked after, this is consistent with the national picture. * ,

* “Many of our performance targets exceed local ones and national averages, placing Barnsley in the upper performance sector in key areas of delivery. , ,

“This demonstrates our ambition for outstanding services, the commitment of the workforce and carers, and our drive for continuous service improvement., ,

, , “The pandemic has had, and will continue to have for some time, an impact on children, young people and family outcomes, on schools, settings, care providers and services who have carried out significant work to maintain provision during this difficult period to mitigate risk and impact.”

* In 2020/21, net spend on ‘looked after children’ was £15.3m - , and the budget for this year has been upped by £1.5m to address the pressures.

The proposal for an additional local residential five-bed provision was also agreed earlier this year to increase placement options.

Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “We are delivering good outcomes and services to our children in care and care leavers and shows that we are managing our resources effectively, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“We don’t want being in care to be a barrier to success, and this strategy will allow us to give our children and young people the best possible chance of reaching their potential and going on to great things in life.”