Rising demand pushes children’s services towards crisis point

Written by: Karen Faux
7 November 2018

Children’s safeguarding services desperately need more funding and a long-term strategy to meet escalating need from families and children.

At Aylesbury Day Nursery in south east London all staff are regularly trained in safeguarding.
At Aylesbury Day Nursery in south east London all staff are regularly trained in safeguarding.

New research from the Association of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual Safeguarding Pressures report highlights how local authorities are struggling to meet increasing demand for social care services which protect young children from harm.

According to the report, variable funding for early help, combined with growth in the child population and the rise in demand driven by greater need, represents a serious threat to ensuring children in England are kept safe.

At a time when the social care workforce needs to expand, many workers are exiting the sector, dogged by increasing workloads due to policy and legislation changes.

Stuart Gallimore, ADCS president said: ‘There is not enough money in the system to meet the level of need we are now seeing, and further cuts are planned. This is compromising our ability to improve children’s life chances.’

Funding shortfall
While the Chancellor’s recent Autumn budget committed a total of £650 million for social care for next year, council leaders are saying this is not enough, and that a longer-term strategy for children is essential.

At the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, chair and councillor Anntoinette Bramble, said:  ‘These findings re-inforce the need for new and long-term significant funding for children’s services which are fast approaching a tipping point and face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025, just to keep services running at their current level.

‘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.

In-work poverty
According to the latest data, the number of children on child protection plans increased by 87 per cent between 2017 to 2018, with an estimated 75,480 children currently in care. This represents nearly 3,000 more than the 72,670 in 2017, marking a 24 per cent rise in the last decade.

It also estimates there were an estimated 2.4 million initial contacts made to children’s social care in 2017 to 2018, representing a 78 per cent increase in the past 10 years.

The research looks at wider societal trends that underpin the rise in demand. It finds that the percentage of children living in relative poverty is rising and there is an upward trend in poverty in working households.

Respondents to the survey said that domestic violence was the most prominent factor for children being referred to children’s social care, with 69 per cent of children taken into care having experienced domestic abuse at home.

Focus on prevention
The report says that while local authorities have been constantly re-configuring services to meet needs and manage growth in demand, they have ‘maintained a clear focus on children and their families at the heart of services.’

However, in order to stop the current cycle and start to reduce demand and support children and families when they need it most, local authorities must be ‘allowed to focus on prevention.’

The report states: ‘Change of this magnitude takes time, more time than a parliamentary cycle. This is a challenge that the government cannot ignore as we enter the next Spending Review’.

Read the full report here

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