William Eichler 20 May 2022

Children’s care services ‘stuck in crisis mode’

Children’s care services ‘stuck in crisis mode’ image
Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com.

Council chiefs have called for reform of the children’s social care system as research shows that spending to provide support to vulnerable children has increased by almost a quarter in five years.

The latest figures, published by the Local Government Association (LGA), show that councils in England spent over £10.5bn on children’s social care in 2020/21 – nearly 25% higher than in 2016/17, where expenditure was almost £8.5bn.

The figures also show that more than two thirds of councils are being forced to overspend to keep up with rising demand to support vulnerable children. Councils overspent by more than £800m in the year 2020/21. This is despite councils increasing their budgets by £708m that year and by £1.bn in the past two years.

The LGA is urging the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to call for a white paper by the autumn, as well as a long-term funding solution for services.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Children’s social care services have been stuck in crisis mode for too long. We are ready to start making the changes that will improve our services and make children’s lives better.

‘These new figures demonstrate how hard councils are working to invest in the services children need. However, spiralling costs and increased demand means that funding is largely supporting those in most urgent need of help. We continue to call on the Government to invest additional funding in the strong family help services that can prevent families from reaching crisis point.’

In the past decade, the number of Section 47 enquiries, carried out when councils have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or at risk of, significant harm has increased from 111,700 in 2011 to 198,790 in 2021 – a rise of 78%.

The number of children in care in England has increased from 65,510 in 2011 to 80,850 in 2021 – a 23% rise.

‘The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is a once-in-a-generation chance to reform our systems to make sure all children and their families receive the right support at the right time, to enable them to thrive,’ Cllr Bramble continued.

‘The review must be followed by a children’s social care white paper that demonstrates Government’s commitment to investing in and reforming the services that change children’s lives.’

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