Councils don't have enough money to meet their statutory duties to children

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Two-thirds of councillors responsible for children’s services say their local authority doesn't have the resources to provide universal services such as children’s centres, finds survey.

This is despite 87 per cent saying that demand for services has increased over the last two years.

The findings are from a survey of 101 local authority lead members with responsibility for children’s services, published today and carried out this month by Survation on behalf of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

The survey also found that:

  • More than four in ten (41 per cent) said they didn’t have enough money to meet one or more of their statutory duties to children;
  • Over a third (35 per cent) said their local authority lacked the resources to support ‘children in need’, with 36 per cent having insufficient funding to help children in care, and nearly one in three (30 per cent) lacking the resources to support children with protection plans.

The findings echo those of a poll of 508 Conservative councillors by Action for Children last week, which found that over half agree that Government cuts have made it harder for councils to meet their legal responsibilities for children and young people.

Lead members responsible for children’s services  who responded to NCB said the extra burden on local authorities has come about for a number of reasons. Half said it was partly due to increased levels of poverty and hardship, while 45 per cent said cuts to other services for families, such as housing support, were a contributing factor. Nearly a quarter said that rising levels of abuse and neglect was one of the reasons behind the increase in demand, and more than a third said it was in part due to professionals getting better at spotting the signs of a child in ‘urgent need’.

When asked by NCB what their top three priorities for spending would be if they had a 10 per cent increase in their annual budget, over half of survey respondents said they would target the money at early support for families. Other priorities included childcare in care and improving support for children with mental health problems.

Findings from the survey have been published to coincide with a meeting organised by the NCB of decision makers and leaders from across the children’s sector to present the charity’s new analysis, ‘Off the Radar. The analysis outlines the challenges facing children in England and what needs to happen to improve their lives.

Off the Radar, calls on the Government to take action across a range of areas, including:

  • Creating a cross-Government strategy with a comprehensive approach to improving children’s lives;
  • Increasing funding for children’s social care, investing in high-quality early education and additional resources for mental health services;
  • Developing better social care assessments for disabled children;
  • Action to create a more inclusive education system;
  • Improved data collection and sharing by professionals working with children.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, ‘It’s becoming increasingly clear that across England local authorities are struggling to meet the needs of children and young people, including those at considerable risk.

‘We should be stepping in to help these children as early as possible, but with two-thirds of lead members saying they have insufficient resources to provide universal services, prevention and early help are falling by the wayside, as councils are forced to prioritise funds for those closest to crisis.

Strikingly, half of lead members responsible for children’s services linked growing pressure on services with poverty, illustrating the impact of deprivation on children. It’s clear that demand is growing for other reasons too, including cuts to other services and more children living with complex disabilities.’

She added, ‘Central Government must take action so that families can access the help they need when they need it. This starts with an immediate funding injection for children’s services, additional resources to tackle mental health problems, and better data sharing. But no single action can address the deeper causes of increasing demand, such as poverty, poor housing and benefits cuts, and we need a detailed Government plan that addresses these and shows how we can create a society that works for all children and young people.’

Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill, said, 'Every single child should receive the same high quality care, support and protection, no matter where they live. In 2015 we made more than £200 billion available to local authorities for services up to 2019-20, and local authorities increased spending on children and young people’s services to over £9 billion in 2015-16.

'In addition to this, we are investing £200 million in our Innovation Programme so councils and others have support to trial ways to reform services to be more effective. As part of this, we have announced £20 million to provide additional support to local authorities where risk of failure is highest.'


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