12 Jan 2018, Katy Morton
The latest Department for Education (DfE) figures show there were 646,120 referrals to councils’ children’s services during 2016/17, an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year.
According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the figures equate to 1,770 referrals a day, or one child every 49 seconds.
The DfE figures also show that more than 500 child protection investigations were started on average each day in 2016/17, increasing from 200 a decade ago.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, warns that social workers are struggling to cope with the rising demand for support.
It says the figures reinforce the ‘urgent need’ for the Government to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address the £2 billion funding gap in children’s services by the end of the decade.
The LGA warns that failure to close this gap will leave many children and families across the country, who desperately rely on these crucial services, at risk.
Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said, ‘We will always encourage people to refer any concerns about children to their local authority as soon as possible, so that the situation can be investigated and support or immediate protection put in place where necessary.
‘But while these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children’s services for a number of years.
‘With councils now having a child referred to them every 49 seconds on a daily basis, it is vital that they have the resources necessary to provide an effective response.’
A DfE spokesperson said, 'It is paramount that children receive the best possible care and support when they need it. That’s why we are driving forward improvements across every area of the child protection system to identify those at risk sooner and have made more than £200 billion available to councils for local services, including children’s services, up to 2019-20.
'Councils have a duty to provide appropriate care for the children in their area, including responding to referrals. We are supporting them to deliver efficient services by investing £200 million in the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to test innovative ways of supporting children.'