Nothing left in authorities’ coffers as number of cases rockets
SOCIAL care for children is at breaking point as soaring demand for emergency help pushes councils’ threadbare budgets to the limit, according to new research published today.
Three-quarters of English councils have overspent by £605 million to protect children at immediate risk of harm, reports the Local Government Association (LGA).
Councils have faced a 140 per cent surge in demand with an unprecedented 170,000 child-protection enquiries in 2015-16. A decade ago the figure was 71,800.
The number of children who were then placed on child-protection plans also increased by nearly 24,000 over the same period.
But ongoing Tory austerity cuts to local authority budgets has meant more being spent on emergency help as early intervention services are slashed.
The LGA warned that the crisis is “unsustainable” because a £2 billion funding gap is expected by 2020 it will only get worse. LGA children and young people board chairman Richard Watts said: “Councils have done everything they can to respond to the growing financial crisis in children’s social care, including reducing costs where they can and finding new ways of working.
“However, they are at the point where there are very few savings left to find without having a real and lasting impact upon crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on.”
National Children’s Bureau chief executive Anna Feuchtwang said: “Stepping in early to help families is essential for turning vulnerable children’s lives around and saves money in the long run.
“But with support for early intervention services in long-term decline, families often only receive help when it is too late to keep a family together.”
Government funding for the early intervention grant has been cut by almost £500m since 2013. It is predicted to fall by a further £183 million by 2020 — a 40 per cent reduction.
In addition, 365 children’s centres and 603 youth centres have been closed by local authorities since 2012. email@example.com