Services to protect vulnerable children in rural areas are being hard hit by a spike in demand and cuts in funding, according to county councils.
The County Councils Network (CCN) says pressure on children’s service has risen most dramatically in the countryside, but rural authorities are given half as much as urban councils to deliver the services.
It says referrals to social services have more than doubled in the last 10 years while the number of young people subject to a child protection plan, for those at serious risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, has doubled in the last year alone.
CCN warns government is ‘sleepwalking’ into another funding crisis for vulnerable people unless demand and funding pressures facing children’s social services are given equal billing to the adult sector.
It says funding is failing to keep up with the spike in demand because growing pressures are not recognised in the current funding formula.
It says a government review of the way local authorities are funded could 'go a long way to solving financial issues'.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, children’s services spokesman for CCN and leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: 'We remain confident that the government’s review of the way councils are funded could finally iron out these discrepancies and give us a funding deal that will allow us to maintain these badly-needed services at the same quality as we are delivering now.
'We look forward to engaging with the review in due course.'
Figures published today show councils have overspent £605m on children's services.