THE £10 million overspend in Fife Council's children and families service is "yet another damaging financial blow" for the Kingdom.

That's the view of Dunfermline councillor James Calder after the sky-high cost of caring for kids was revealed at the education and children's services sub-committee last week.

He said the overspend had spiralled from £4.8m in August 2019 and added: "It appears that this overspend has more than doubled since last year and with council finances hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is yet another damaging financial blow for Fife.

“Much of this is due to third-party payments for care placements, like last year.

"After I raised this at the committee, it was explained that Fife was anticipating this to reduce significantly, meaning much less was budgeted for this.

"However, clearly, things have transpired differently.

“The SNP and Labour council coalition need to sort this out as the council’s financial predicament remains perilous.”

The report to the committee by executive director Carrie Lindsay confirmed that the overspend was "mainly due to overspends on third-party payments for care placements".

She explained: "These relate to purchased care placements of £8.6m, kinship care of £780,000, continuing care of £982,000 and within grants to voluntary organisations of £782,000, with £410,000 of this shortfall being due to unachieved savings.

"Partly offsetting the outturn position is an underspend on employee costs of £644,000 due to staff turnover."

She said that one of the council's priorities was to try to "reduce the reliance on purchased care placements and increase the number of children who can be looked after safely at home or in kinship care".

In the last financial year, the council cut the number of "high-cost placements" from 127 to 81, with the number of purchased placements falling from 374 to 286.

Ms Lindsay said the benefits would be felt in this financial year and would help in cutting costs.

She added: "Continuing care is also impacting on the service revenue budget. The overspend relates to those continuing care placements which are with external care providers.

"However, a number of continuing care placements are in Fife Council provision, either with foster carers or in residential care.

"Whilst these arrangements continue to provide security for the young people concerned, they also mean that these placements are not available for looked-after children who require to be accommodated."

Ms Lindsay's report said that, as a whole, the education and children's service's revenue budget for 2019-20 was set to be overspent by £5.2m.

She said: "The dominant factors are the projected overspend in respect of long-term absence and maternity leave within education, and the increased pressure on child placements and continuing care within children and families.

"These are partly offset by the projected underspend within devolved school management and within early years and special education, due to the vacant teaching posts and shortage of supply, and delays in commencing projects and recruitment lead in times."