Social work chief warns of ‘hidden harm’ in Dumfries and Galloway

The full picture of the impact Covid has had on children and families across Dumfries and Galloway has yet to be seen, it has been warned.

The region’s social work chief, Lillian Cringles, revealed that the number of referrals to children and adult services alone has jumped by more than 40 percent in the past year.

She added: “We absolutely know there’s a lot of hidden harm in our communities, and some of that is currently coming to the fore.”

It was revealed earlier this month that an increase in children requiring residential care in Dumfries and Galloway during the pandemic has cost the council more than £500,000.

Social work services in the region have been “significantly impacted” as a result of Covid, with staff scrambling to find enough care accommodation for children.

With some additional funding coming from the Scottish Government, social work bosses managed to balance the books up until March 2021.

However, a review of the budget for the first quarter of 2021/22 shows that the council is in the red again and the social work department is under a lot of pressure.

Ms Cringles gave an explanation at the council’s social work committee last week.

She said: “We currently are facing a challenging budget situation. We are still clearly, as members are aware, in the depths of response and recovery from the Covid pandemic.

“It’s difficult for me, at this moment in time, to give members an exact figure because we’re still realigning some of the Covid funding, and we are still looking at some of those issues that arose during Covid that have remained.

“We had four youngsters who we ended up having to accommodate in agency placements.

“A couple of those are at significant costs, but we are working to bring those young folks back into the region and I would hope that will assist to address some of the significant challenges that we’ve got within our budget just now.

“We are projecting an overspend moving forward, however we are working hard to make sure we bring that budget back in line.”

The social work chief officer vowed to provide a more detailed update at the next committee meeting.

She added: “However, I do have to explain to members that we are still facing a significant demand for services in our children’s and adult services.

“We’re well over a 40 percent increase in demand for referrals alone over the last year.

“So, we’re still facing a real challenging and demanding situation which we’re working hard to ensure we manage as best as we can within the allocated resource.

“But there’s no question that the impact of Covid in terms of the protection agenda for children and adults is yet to be fully recognised.

“We absolutely know there’s a lot of hidden harm in our communities, and some of that is currently coming to the fore.”

Social work services committee chairman Stephen Thompson said: “We look forward to future reports that’ll help us better understand the full impact and what we’re having to deal with.”

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