HALTON is among 20 north west councils warning the Chancellor they need more money to tackle a growing crisis in children's social care.

Cabinet members from Halton, St Helens, Warrington, Wirral, Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Bury, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cumbria, Knowsley, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Sefton, Stockport and Tameside have sent a cross-party letter to Phillip Hammond say they are struggling to cope.

The number of looked after children has soared to unprecedented levels of more than 13,000, a 20 year high and the greatest number of children in care of any region in England.

A rise of 12 per cent since 2013 is double the increase across the rest of the country.

Expenditure on residential care placements has risen by £45 million this year.

Increases in domestic abuse and mental health issues saw more than 90,000 referrals in 2016/17.

Halton Council leader Cllr Rob Polhill said: "We are very worried about looked after children. This is not just Halton expressing concern. All local authorities of whichever colour are facing the same crisis.

"The government is not taking any notice and has failed to provide sufficient funding.

"We try wherever we can to work with families to keep children in their own homes but we are reaching a crisis point.

"We have lost more than half our budget since 2010 whilst costs are rising."

Councillor Barry Kushner, Liverpool’s Cabinet member for children’s social care and lead member for the north west on the Children’s Services Network of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “There is a growing crisis in children’s social care in the north west and councils are struggling to cope.

“We know that the sustainable solution to reducing children’s social care is early intervention and stopping problems becoming crises. But the increasing costs of children’s social care is driving our limited resources away from funding early help.

"This is not good for families because we can only intervene when a situation has escalated out of control, or for society as we often end up taking children into care, which is far more costly and damages their life chances.

“It is not just us saying this, it is part of a national picture illustrated in the Turning the Tide report produced by Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau and the Children’s Society.

“As the Finance Bill makes its way through Parliament, we are asking the Government to respond to the crisis of children’s social care, and provide adequate funding to meet these needs.”

Councillor Bernie Mooney, Wirral Council's cabinet member for children’s services, said the effects of austerity continue to hurt those most in need - causing the numbers of children and families needing help to rise to unprecedented levels.

Cllr Mooney: “This level of need and demand for services from our most vulnerable children and families has never been seen before.

“Since the Government took office, there has been a steady reduction in early intervention services for children.

"Family support services have been cut to the bone and children’s centres have been shutting at a rate of six per month in the UK and the situation is unsustainable and putting vulnerable young people at risk.

“It's time the Government listened to councils across the region all warning of the same risk with young people’s lives by not acting now."