The number of children looked after by local authorities has increased since last year, prompting council chiefs to warn of the ‘huge demand’ this is placing on children’s services.
New statistics from the Department for Education show that, as of 31 March 2018, there were 75,420 looked after children in England - up 4% on the previous year’s figure.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, the chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Children and Young People, warned that this ‘shows the huge demand on councils to provide vital care and support for children and young people.’
In the Autumn Budget, the chancellor announced £410m for adult and children’s social care in 2019/20, with a further £85m over five years to expand children’s social care programmes in 20 areas.
However, children’s services still face a funding gap of £3bn by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels. They are, in Cllr Bramble’s words, ‘fast approaching a tipping point.’
‘While the additional investment announced in the Budget was a small step in the right direction and helpful, this will do little to alleviate the immediate and future pressures on services for some of the most vulnerable children and families in the vast majority of council areas,’ she said.
‘It is vital that the Government tackles the funding crisis facing children’s services in next year’s Spending Review, and delivers a long-term sustainable funding solution that enables councils to protect children at immediate risk of harm while also supporting early intervention to prevent problems escalating in the first place.’
Nearly 400,000 children in England were referred and assessed as in need of the support of social services in 2017/18. According to the LGA, children’s services are taking on new cases for 1,047 children every day.
A study by Coram Voice and the University of Bristol has also found that a quarter of 11-18 year olds have had three or more social workers over the past year, and a third do not fully understand why they are in care.