Call for urgent investment in early help as more children taken into care

By Agencies
October 13, 2017

Ninety children a day entered care last year with a record number of children now in the care system, local councils have revealed.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said official figures show the total number of looked after children reached a new high of 72,670 in 2016/17 – up from 70,440 the year before.

This also represents the biggest annual rise of children in care in seven years, as stretched children’s services continue to face increasing pressure. The LGA said the figures highlight the urgent need for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement next month to address the £2 billion funding gap that will face children’s services by 2020.

This is the only way to ensure children and families are able to get the support they need, when they need it, to avoid children having to go into care wherever possible. Without action, the numbers of children coming into care will continue to rise and councils will find it even harder to support them and their families.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said, “Children’s services are at a tipping point with growing demand for support combining with ongoing council funding pressures to become unsustainable.

“Last year saw the biggest rise in the number of children in care for seven years. With 90 children coming into care every day, our calls for urgent funding to support these children and invest in children and their families are becoming increasingly urgent.

“Children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. If nothing is done to address this funding gap, crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on will be put at risk.

“We are calling on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to commit to fully funding children’s services and invest in improving services to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.”

Commenting on the figures, Sam Royston, Director of Policy at The Children’s Society, said, “These shocking figures show what happens when children and families do not get the early support they need to prevent problems reaching crisis point. While children’s homes and foster placements offer vital support, we would much rather families received timely help to avoid the need for their children to be taken into care.

“That is increasingly difficult for councils facing a £2 billion shortfall in children’s services funding by 2020, which has led to cuts to services like Sure Start and youth groups.  By then, early intervention funding will have fallen by 71 per cent in real terms since 2010/11.

“At the same time, families are increasingly in need of help, and our latest Good Childhood Report shows how issues experienced by parents like debt, mental health and substance misuse are taking their toll on children’s happiness.

“The funding gap facing councils also makes it harder for them to provide the best possible support for vulnerable children in their care. 

“These young people are at particular risk of going missing from home, with all the risks that brings, and nearly half of children in care experience mental ill health.

"It is vital that councils work with other agencies including police, health services and the voluntary sector to prioritise issues like these and ensure children in care get the support they need.  However, this must be backed up by a Government pledge of new investment in children’s services in the forthcoming Autumn Budget.

“Without these commitments we will continue to see councils struggling to provide vital support which could help prevent some of these children being taken into care – as well as ensuring those they are caring for get the support they deserve.”

* Read the Good Childhood Report here

* The Children's Society https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

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