A child is referred to children's services every 49 seconds, say councils

By agency reporter
January 13, 2018

A child was referred to local authority children’s services every 49 seconds last year, the Local Government Association has revealed.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, said children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020 and are struggling to cope with rising demand for support.

There were 646,120 referrals overall to councils’ children’s services during 2016/17. With 1,770  referrals being made every day, that is the equivalent of one every 49 seconds.

Social workers are working hard to investigate concerns, and if necessary, put in place immediate measures to help keep children safe and out of harm. More than 500 child protection investigations were also started on average each day in 2016/17, increasing from 200 a decade ago.

The LGA said the figures reinforce the urgent need for the Government to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address the £2 billion funding gap that is facing children’s services by the end of the decade.

It warns that failure to close this gap will leave many children and families across the country, who desperately rely on these crucial services, at risk.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said, “We will always encourage people to refer any concerns about children to their local authority as soon as possible, so that the situation can be investigated and support or immediate protection put in place where necessary.

“But while these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children’s services for a number of years.

“With councils now having a child referred to them every 49 seconds on a daily basis, it is vital that they have the resources necessary to provide an effective response.

“The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts, including the £2 billion gap that councils face by 2020, have left them struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need.

“The £2 billion funding gap must be addressed in the final Local Government Finance Settlement to ensure the support that families need from council child protection services is there now and in years to come.

“Unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention, many more vulnerable children remain at risk.”

Section 47 of the 1989 Children Act requires local authorities to investigate any circumstances where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm.

Councils began 185,450 child protection enquiries during 2016/17. In 2006/7 the figure was 73,800.

* The official statistics, Characteristics of children in need: 2016 to 2017 are here

* LGA https://www.local.gov.uk/


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