COUNCILS are facing serious challenges looking after children amid increasing budget pressures, a senior figure has warned.

Blackburn with Darwen Council executive member for children’s services and education, Cllr Maureen Bateson, said cuts to council budgets mean local authorities are trying to provide services which are beyond their means.

Cllr Bateson’s warning comes after the publication of a study which found more than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks.

The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, said more than a million of the most vulnerable in the country are being let down by a system that leaves them to “fend for themselves”.

Cllr Bateson said: “It’s really frightening and just this week we had a state review which tells us we now have to provide support and advice for children who have been in care up to 25 instead of 21.

“We’ve been given just over £6,000 to do this from Government and that adds to the pressures.With the mental health problems that many of these children are facing, it’s a crisis.

“We have overspent and we are looking at more cuts in the future.

“It’s becoming a massive challenge for councils across the north west and Ofsted don’t want to know about our budget problems.

“The problem is we are not giving the service we want to give to some of our children and that is criminal.”

Ms Longfield’s report into childhood vulnerability estimates that 2.1 million of England’s 11.8 million children are living in families with risks so serious that they need some level of help.

Some of the risks these children face include parents with mental health problems or parents who are alcoholics or have substance abuse problems.

Of the 2.1 million children, there are 890,000 with parents suffering serious mental health problems, 825,000 living in homes with domestic violence, and 100,000 children who are living in a family with a “toxic trio”, mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s head of policy, performance and planning, Robert Arrowsmith, said newly qualified social workers employed by the council are having to take on heavy workloads because of cutbacks.

He said the authority was employing newly qualified social workers working on an average of 25 cases at any one time, which poses a significant challenge.

Mr Arrowsmith added: “We need to improve the quality of the work undertaken by the front line social workers.”