Growing crisis in children's social care, say councillors

By agency reporter
November 2, 2017

A survey of local councillors responsible for children’s services confirms an increasing crisis in children’s social care, with the overwhelming majority (87 per cent) saying that demand for local authority support for children and families has risen over the past two years. The findings suggest many councils are struggling to provide this help.

The results of the survey, published by the National Children’s Bureau, show that two-thirds (66 per cent) of lead members for children said their local authority lacked the resources to provide universal services like children’s centres and youth clubs.

Four in ten (40 per cent) said they didn’t have enough money to meet one or more of their statutory duties to children. Over a third (35 per cent) said their local authority lacked the resources to support ‘children in need’, with 35 per cent having insufficient funding to help children in care, and nearly one in three (30 per cent) lacking the resources to support children with protection plans.

Lead members responsible for children’s services said the extra burden on local authorities had come about for a number of reasons. Half (50 per cent) said it was partly due to increased levels of poverty and hardship, while 45 per cent said cuts to other services for families, such as housing support, were a contributing factor. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) said that rising levels of abuse and neglect was one of the reasons behind the increase in demand, while more than a third (36 per cent) said it was in part due to professionals getting better at spotting the signs of a child in urgent need.

The lead members for children’s services were asked what their top three priorities for spending would be if they had a 10 per cent increase in their annual budget. Over half (54 per cent) said they would target the money at early support for families, half (50 per cent) would prioritise children in care, and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) would improve support for children with mental health problems.

The survey is published as the National Children’s Bureau convenes a meeting of decision makers and leaders from across the children’s sector to present Off the Radar, an analysis of the challenges facing children in England, and what needs to happen to improve their lives.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, "It’s becoming increasingly clear that across England local authorities are struggling to meet the needs of children and young people, including those at considerable risk.

“We should be stepping in to help these children as early as possible, but with two-thirds of lead members saying they have insufficient resources to provide universal services, prevention and early help are falling by the wayside, as councils are forced to prioritise funds for those closest to crisis.

“Strikingly, half of lead members responsible for children’s services linked growing pressure on services with poverty, illustrating the impact of deprivation on children. It’s clear that demand is growing for other reasons too, including cuts to other services and more children living with complex disabilities.

“Central Government must take action so that families can access the help they need when they need it. This starts with an immediate funding injection for children’s services, additional resources to tackle mental health problems, and better data sharing. But no single action can address the deeper causes of increasing demand, such as poverty, poor housing and benefits cuts, and we need a detailed Government plan that addresses these and shows how we can create a society that works for all children and young people. "

Off the Radar calls on Government to take action across a range of areas, including:

  • Creating a cross-Government strategy with a comprehensive approach to improving children’s lives
  • Increasing funding for children’s social care, investing in high-quality early education and providing additional resources for mental health services
  • Developing better social care assessments for disabled children
  • Action to create a more inclusive education system
  • Improved data collection and sharing by professionals working with children.

Read Off The Radar here

* National Children's Bureau


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