The number of children in council care has risen as the pandemic has caused a delay in adoption.
Lincolnshire social workers are seeing a ‘bulge’ in the population, as courts struggle to deal with the Covid backlog.
Children who could have been adopted or placed with relatives are staying in care longer as a result.
Lincolnshire County Council had already seen a spike in the number of children being taken into care during the pandemic, with an increase of 60 between March 2020 and February 2021.
Janice Spencer, the Assistant Director of Children’s Safeguarding described the “massive challenge” that the system was experiencing.
“We are seeing an increase of our children in care population,” she told Lincolnshire County Council’s Corporate Parenting Panel.
“Over the last two years, they haven’t been exiting from care in the normal way.
“The court capacity is a massive challenge for us. Young people haven’t had care plans ratified by courts in the way that they would normally, and therefore we have a bulge in the system.
“Children that should be adopted or living with relatives under a special guardianship order [haven’t done so]. There is a number of those, and we are tracking those with the court.
“There are unprecedented challenges around capacity. The judges are probably struggling as much as we are around social work.
“We are working very closely to the courts on it. I am hoping that over time, as court capacity increases, we will see our population reduce.”
She added that all other local authorities have experienced the same challenges during the pandemic, and Lincolnshire remained below average.
There were 49 children in care for every 10,000 residents in the county, whereas its neighbours had 54 per 10,000 and the average for England was 63 per 10,000.
The country is seeing a national shortage of social workers, forcing the council to rely more on agency staff.
“While we are experiencing challenges, they are nowhere near the challenges of other local authorities,” she said.
“We have seen our vacancy rate increase but we are hoping that the longer-term measures will start to bear fruition. We are continually training our own social workers.”
County councillors gave the backing for £1.5 million to be spent on two new children’s care homes in November in a bid to tackle “spiralling” costs of out of county care.
Strut House in Lincoln will soon become Robin House and house six to 12-year-olds.