Children's services in England face cash crisis, warn charities

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Funding for children’s services has fallen by nearly a third since 2010, according to a new analysis by a coalition of the 'big five' children's charities.

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The joint report by the children's charities that make up the children's services funding alliance, Action for Children, the Children’s Society, NSPCC, the National Children’s Bureau and Barnardo’s, warns that thousands more children and young people could fall into crisis if the cuts continue.

Councils are facing a £3 billion funding gap for children’s services by 2025, with many services already closed or already reduced.

Despite funding cuts, the report said that many councils have sought to protect children's services, with spending falling by 16 per cent compared to a 29 per cent funding drop since 2010/11.

Councils in London have seen the largest cuts. Westminster has seen its funding cut the most by 51 per cent, Tower Hamlets and Camden have experienced cuts of 49 per cent, and Newham and Hackney, both 46 per cent.

However, the scale of the funding cuts is not restricted to London.

Manchester (45 per cent drop), Nottingham and Birmingham (43 per cent) are also in the top 20 list of areas in England that have suffered the most cuts to children’s services’ funding.

More than 1,000 children’s centres have closed since 2009, as well as 760 youth centres that have closed since 2012, and the numbers of child protection cases and children being taken into care are at the highest in a decade.

Chief executive at Action for Children, Julie Bentley, said, 'Children’s services are at breaking point and these alarming figures reveal the true scale of the devastating and dangerous funding cuts made year after year by successive governments.

'With the number of child protection cases and children being taken into care at their highest for a decade, it's unthinkable to continue forcing councils to make crippling cuts to services.

'Without urgent cash from central government, thousands more children at risk of neglect and abuse will slip through the cracks and into crisis.'

Chief executive at the Children’s Society, Nick Roseveare, said, 'Vulnerable children are continuing to pay the price as councils face a toxic cocktail of funding cuts and soaring demand for help.  This shocking analysis lays bare the enormous scale of this funding challenge, which is making it near impossible for councils to offer vital early support to children and young people to prevent problems escalating.
 
'Funding cuts are not only an inhumane economy, they are also a false one. The reductions in early help for children they lead to simply intensify the need for more costly interventions further down the road - like taking children into care as they face growing risks, including everything from substance misuse and mental health problems, to repeatedly going missing, and being sexually or criminally exploited.'

Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, councillor Anntoinette Bramble, said, ‘Children’s social care is facing a country-wide cash crisis, with nine in 10 councils spending more than they planned to last year. While the report notes that these cuts have affected different areas in different ways, it is clear that all councils are now finding their budgets under enormous pressure as a result of the ongoing children’s care cash crisis.

‘The report rightly highlights that councils have worked hard to protect vulnerable children and families from the full scale of cuts, with spending on children’s services falling far less than the funding available from government.

‘But the analysis also demonstrates the real impact that these funding cuts are having on communities across the country, with councils all too often forced to cut the early intervention services which can help children avoid needing more serious and costly care later on.

‘It is vital that the Government heeds the consistent and increasingly urgent warnings that children’s services are now at a tipping point, and uses the upcoming Spending Review to deliver a long-term strategy that enables councils to meet the growing need for support from some of the most vulnerable children in society.’

Commenting on the report, minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi, said, 'We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential, which is why we have made £200 billion available to councils up to 2020 for local services including those for children and young people.

'The number of local children’s services rated outstanding is growing, and the number rated inadequate has dropped by a third since 2017 – from 30 down to 19. By 2022, I want this reduced to fewer than 10 per cent of councils, and we are on track to meet this.'

  • Download the analysis on Children and young people's services: funding and spending 2010/11 to 2017/18
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