Children's services 'at breaking point'

9 Aug 17

Children’s services are at breaking point with 75% of councils overspending to keep vital protections in place, Local Government Association research has revealed.

The review found that in 2015/16 councils surpassed their children’s social care budgets by £605m in order to protect children at immediate risk of harm.

More than 170,000 children in England and Wales were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – a 140% increase in just 10 years.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children’s services overspend in their local areas shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children’s social care, both now and in the near future.”

Today, the County Councils Network also stated that the pressure on children’s service has risen most dramatically in rural councils, whilst they receive half the money urban councils get to deliver these services.

It called on the government to introduce a fairer funding system based on demand for services.

The CNN said in 2016 there were over 250,000 referrals to rural social services, compared to 121,324 in 2005/06 – a 104% increase in demand over the last ten years.

This was treble the amount of any other local authority type, CNN said, with London and non-CCN unitary authorities seeing a decrease in that time period.

Meanwhile the number of children subject to a child protection plan, used in cases were children are at serious risk of abuse or neglect, has more than doubled over the last year, with 24,652 plans put in place.

This is a 102% hike from 2006 when 12,181 were recorded.

Ian Hudspeth, children’s services spokesman for CCN, said: “The services vulnerable children desperately need to live a life most of us take for granted are coming under unsustainable pressure in rural areas, as we have seeing unprecedented demand at a time when our budgets have drastically been reduced.

“Government needs to take note on this issue sooner rather than later, otherwise we are sleepwalking into another funding crisis for services that less fortunate young people rely on.

"We want to give our vulnerable children the best start and opportunities in life, but we need adequate funding to do that.”

CNN and the LGA noted that a nationwide children’s services funding gap of £2bn will exist by 2020.

This will be made worse by the £500m cut to the early intervention grant that has been made since 2013, the organisations added. There is expected to be another cut to this grant of £183m by 2020.

Today’s figures follow a study at the beginning of this month by the local government and social care ombudsman, which found children’s services were among most complained about issue.

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