Councils face £2bn gap to support vulnerable children, LGA highlights

New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted a £2 billion funding gap is expected to open by 2020 as pressures facing children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable.

The LGA has called on all political parties ahead of the General Election to ‘commit to the life chances of children and young people by acting urgently to address this funding gap’. It warned the gap will continue to grow unless action is taken now to reduce the number of families relying on the children’s social care system for support.

The LGA warned that councils have faced an unprecedented surge in demand for support over recent years which is showing little sign of abating. It cited more than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015/16, compared to 71,800 in 2005/06 – a 140 per cent increase in just 10 years. The number of children on formal child protection plans increased by almost 24,000 over the same period.

The body maintained that early intervention work with children and their families has long been recognised as a way of limiting the need for intensive support later down the line, and councils have worked hard to protect local funding for services that help families before the point that problems become more serious.

However, ongoing reductions to local authority budgets are forcing many areas to make extremely difficult decisions about how to allocate increasingly scarce resources. More often than not, resources are taken up by the provision of urgent support for the rising numbers of children and families already at crisis point instead of investing in early help services.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Services caring for and protecting vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point. 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.

“With councils facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services in the next three years they have responded by reducing costs and finding new ways to deliver services. But there are very few savings left to find without having a real and lasting impact upon crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on.

“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.”

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