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Councils surpass children’s social care budgets by £605m last year

Councils exceeded their children’s social care budgets by £605m last year, prompting leaders to warn that the sector is currently at a “tipping point”.

In analysis from the LGA, it was also found that this overspend was happening during a time of unprecedented demand for services, as more than 170,000 children were subject to child protection enquiries in 2015-16 compared to 71,800 a decade before.

These two factors mean that child services are fast becoming unsustainable for the sector, the LGA added, as local authorities are facing a funding gap for children’s care of £2bn by 2020.

The limited money available is also being taken up with provision for urgent help for children and families at crisis point, meaning that authorities had very little left to spend on early intervention.

This was also backed by figures that showed the Early Intervention Grant had been cut by almost £500m since 2013, and is predicted to drop by another £183m by 2020.

“The fact that the majority of councils are recording high levels of children’s services overspend in their local areas shows the sheer scale of the funding crisis we face in children’s social care, both now and in the near future,” said Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.

“Councils have done everything they can to respond to the growing financial crisis in children’s social care, including reducing costs where they can and finding new ways of working.

“However, they are at the point where 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 LGA chair added that there is “no question” that early intervention can help to limit the need for children to enter the social care system, lay the groundwork for improved performance at school and help to ease future pressure on adult social care by reducing the pressure on services for vulnerable adults.

“However, cuts to the Early Intervention Grant have exacerbated a difficult situation where councils cannot afford to withdraw services for children in immediate need of protection to invest in early help instead,” Cllr Watts continued.

“The reality is that services for the care and protection of vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point. Government must commit to the life chances of children and young people by acting urgently to address the growing funding gap.”

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