English councils ‘overspend by nearly £800m’ on children’s services

27 Aug 19

Funding shortages and increased demand pressure meant that local authorities had to spend £770m more than planned on children’s services in 2018-19, according to the Local Government Association.

Councils budgeted £542m extra for children’s social care in 2018-19 – a 6.8% increase on the year before – but despite the additional cash they still overspent by nearly £800m.

Local authorities have also been diverting cash from other local services to prop up children’s social care, according to analysis by the LGA released today

The group said: “Significant government funding cuts, soaring demand for child protection services and increasing costs to give children the support they need mean that budgets cannot keep up”.

The umbrella group urged the government to use the upcoming Spending Round to plug the funding gap, which it estimates will be £1.4bn next year.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board Anntoinette Bramble said: “Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.

“Funding pressures coinciding with huge increases in demand mean it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that.

“In order to keep children at most risk safe, councils up and down the country have been forced to find savings from non-statutory or discretionary budgets, which includes valuable early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point. This is not sustainable.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential. It is essential that we all strive to achieve the highest standard of services for our most vulnerable children.

“That is why we’re putting an extra £410m into social care this year, including children’s – alongside £84m over five years to keep more children at home with their families safely, to improve the support provided to vulnerable children and their families and enable more children to stay at home thriving in stable family environments.”

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier recently told PF that spending on children was her number one cause for concern.

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