Communities Select Committee launches inquiry into children’s services funding and spending

Children’s services in England and Wales will face an inquiry launched by MPs after concerns have been raised about the sector’s funding and spending levels.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced the inquiry today following findings that children’s services across the country are faced with significant increases in demand.

The inquiry will investigate what impact public spending has had on the provision of care services, and the approach local authorities have taken in addressing funding constraints.

The Autumn Budget last week announced that an extra £410m was to be allocated for adult and child social care services, whilst just £84m was committed over five years to fund children’s social care innovation for up to 20 local authorities.

This inquiry will consider how the financial support being provided from the budget to children’s services can be made more sustainable, and will also examine the potential for innovative approaches to the design and the delivery of the services.

Many in local government around the country will already know that the pressures surrounding children’s services are reaching breaking-point: last week, a sharp increase in the number of children supported through child protection plans to more than 2,700 is pushing councils “to the brink,” the LGA warned.

Spending on statutory children’s services has increased by 3.2% between 2010-11 and 2016-17, however overall spending on children’s services fell by 7% in the same period due to cuts for discretionary services such as Sure Start. Children’s services across the country are faced with significant increases in demand. The National Audit Office calculated that the number of looked-after children grew by 10.9% during this time, with continued rises expected.

Chair of the committee Clive Betts said that whilst the funding for statutory children’s services has increased during times of austerity, “this masks an overall drop in real-terms spending for children’s services as a whole.”

“Over the last decade, services such as Sure Start and youth services have been significantly cut back as local authorities have targeted urgent services over long-term prevention.

“We have launched this inquiry to understand the consequences of current funding levels. How well are local authorities able to tackle the most urgent child safety cases, and how are they looking at the long-term and addressing their causes. We will also look at what innovations have been made, examining the potential for new approaches in the face of increasing demand."

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