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Number of children in care climbs to record high, LGA warns

Councils have revealed that there is a record number of children in care right now, with 90 a day entering the system last year.

The LGA says figures show 72,670 children in the care system in 2016/17 compared with 70,440 the year before, representing the biggest annual rise in seven years.

The organisation, which represents 370 English and Welsh councils, is pointing to the Autumn Budget as an opportunity for chancellor Phillip Hammond to address the £2bn funding gap facing children’s services by 2020.

The organisation says it would also like to see some of the Department of Education’s £300m budget for centrally-run improvement and innovation devolved to local councils.

The LGA argues that this would offer an enhanced programme of support for children’s services and could be targeted to specifically support those councils which require improvement.

This would also allow local groups to create sector-led support for services and could aim to offer regular health-checks and training for leaders and senior officers.

“Children’s services are at a tipping point with growing demand for support combining with ongoing council funding pressures to become unsustainable,” said Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.

“Last year saw the biggest rise in the number of children in care for seven years. With 90 children coming into care every day, our calls for urgent funding to support these children and invest in children and their families are becoming increasingly urgent.

“Children’s services face a £2bn funding gap by 2020. If nothing is done to address this funding gap crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on will be put at risk.

“We are calling on the government to use the Autumn Budget to commit to fully funding children’s services and invest in improving services to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.”

The figures came to light this week at the National Children and Adult Service’s Conference, organised by the LGAs ADASS and ADCS groups.

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