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‘Starved’ children’s services need £3bn funding as cuts push councils to ‘breaking point’, say MPs

Children’s services in England are at “breaking point” and need a minimum funding boost of at least £3.1bn funding boost to cope with demand, MPs have warned in a parliamentary report.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said that current levels of funding are unsustainable, but that increased funding must also go hand-in-hand with systemic change across local authority children’s services.

It recommends a minimum increase to core grant funding of £3.1bn up until 2025 in the upcoming Spending Review, and states that the government must better understand the pressures facing social workers and councils.

Overall, England’s local authorities are grappling with budget cuts of 29% since 2010, and the committee is the latest in a long line of organisations to deliver a stark warning about the state of children’s service across the country.

The LGA has said the services are “at tipping point,” whilst the Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said councils were being “starved” of money and data from the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that 91% of local authorities overspent their children’s services budget this year.

Committee chair Clive Betts said: “Over the last decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of children needing support, whilst at the same time funding has failed to keep up.

“It is clear that this approach cannot be sustained, and the government must make serious financial and systemic changes to support local authorities in helping vulnerable children.

“They must understand why demand is increasing and whether it can be reduced. They must ensure that the funding formula actually allows local authorities to meet the obligations for supporting children that the government places on them.

“We have reached a crisis point and action is needed now.”

The committee’s report said the 2019 Spending Review must reflect the increased demand and pressures, and a successor to the Troubled Families Programme must be announced in advance.

Systemic and strategic changes must be delivered alongside increased funding, and the government should review the key factors driving demand and majorly improve turnover and retention of the children’s services.

Anne Longfield commented: “We cannot just continue to cross our fingers and hope that vulnerable children will be all right – and this report must be a final wake-up call to the government.”

Image credit - fizkes


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