Children’s services at ‘breaking point’ as sector faces £2bn funding gap

Local authorities are facing a £2bn funding gap to support vulnerable children by 2020, councils have warned the government, with the LGA claiming that in many areas services are being pushed to “breaking point”.

Analysis released by the LGA has suggested that the shortfall in cash for these services is likely to grow even wider should immediate action not be taken by the next government.

The LGA has called on politicians to commit to investing in services for vulnerable children in an attempt to plug the growing funding gap of £2bn.  

Over the last few years, councils have faced a huge surge in demand as more than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015-16 compared to 71,800 in 2005-06 – a rise of 140% over 10 years.

Despite this, funding has not kept up with demand, and the LGA argues that cuts have forced authorities to make “difficult decisions” regarding where limited resources are placed.

“Services caring for and protecting vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point,” said Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.

“Ahead of the General Election all political parties must commit to fully funding children’s social care to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.”

Cllr Watts added that councils were fully committed to providing the best possible support to vulnerable children and their families, but that the demand for children’s social care services had more than doubled in the 10 years and is stretching local authority resources to the limit.

“With councils facing a £2bn funding gap for children’s services in the next three years they have responded by reducing costs and finding new ways to deliver services,” he added. “But there are very few savings left to find without having a real and lasting impact upon crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on.”

The chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board stated that early intervention was key to limiting the need for children to enter the social care system, as it laid down the groundwork for improved performance at school and also helped to ease pressure on adult social care as demand for services for vulnerable adults was reduced.

“However, councils are in a difficult situation where they are struggling to invest in this vital early help and support,” Cllr Watts concluded.

The LGA’s call also follows the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children stating that cuts to funds have meant that challenges facing services for vulnerable children have been driven to a “whole new dimension”.

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