Council leaders have warned that children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable and are facing a funding gap of £2bn by 2020.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said this funding gap will only grow unless immediate action is taken to reduce the number of families relying on the children’s social care system.
The number of children subject to child protection enquiries has increased by 140% in the past ten years from 71,800 in 2005/06 to more than 170,000 children in 2015/16. Over the same period, the number of children on formal child protection plans increased by almost 24,000.
‘Services caring for and protecting vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point,’ said cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.
‘Ahead of the General Election all political parties must commit to fully funding children’s social care to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.
‘Councils are committed to providing the best possible support to vulnerable children and their families, but the demand for children’s social care services has more than doubled and is stretching local authority resources.’
The LGA warned that councils were being forced to make ‘extremely difficult’ decisions such as cutting investment in early help services.
Cllr Watts added: ‘Early intervention can help to limit the need for children to enter the social care system, lay the groundwork for improved performance at school and even help to ease future pressure on adult social care by reducing the pressure on services for vulnerable adults. However councils are in a difficult situation where they are struggling to invest in this vital early help and support.’
Kate Mulley, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: 'Councils are caught between a rock and a hard place - having to satisfy increasing demand to support disadvantaged children and their families with limited resources.
'Children’s centres, short breaks for disabled children and information and advice for young people are just some of the services affected. Government funding for these services will fall by 71%, from £3.2bn to less than £1bn between 2010 and 2020.'