The combination of funding shortages and demand pressures forced local authorities to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by nearly £800m last year, the Local Government Association has warned.
A new analysis from the LGA shows that councils budgeted an additional £542m in 2018/19 for children’s social care, but were forced to spend £770m more than planned.
The LGA argues that this was the result of ‘significant’ Government funding cuts and ‘soaring’ demand for child protection services.
‘Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time,’ said Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.
‘Funding pressures coinciding with huge increases in demand mean it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that.’
Children’s services are facing a £1.4bn funding gap next year.
There has also been an 84% increase in children being supported on child protection plans over the last decade, and an additional 15,920 children in care.
‘Up to 1,796 referrals are made to council children’s social services every day – more than one referral a minute,’ said Cllr Bramble.
‘In order to keep children at most risk safe, councils up and down the country have been forced to find savings from non-statutory or discretionary budgets, which includes valuable early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point. This is not sustainable.’
Cllr Bramble urged Whitehall to use the upcoming Spending Round to ‘fully fund’ children’s services.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential. It is essential that we all strive to achieve the highest standard of services for our most vulnerable children.
'That is why we’re putting an extra £410m into social care this year, including children’s – alongside £84m over five years to keep more children at home with their families safely, to improve the support provided to vulnerable children and their families and enable more children to stay at home thriving in stable family environments.'