Children’s charities are calling on the government to better support the children’s social care system, warning that the impact of Covid-19 on top of funding cuts and increasing demand for their services could push the system further towards breaking point once the pandemic subsides.
Analysis by The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau shows that funding cuts have left councils struggling to invest in early intervention services, and instead spending a greater proportion of available funding on children in crisis.
The analysis shows that:
- Funding from central government for children’s services has fallen by £2.2 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19 meaning councils cannot afford to pay for early intervention services, with spending on early help dropping by almost half (46%) during this period.
- At the start of the decade, late intervention, including child protection teams and youth justice services, accounted for 58% of local authority spending on children and young people’s services. This had risen to 78% by 2018/19.
- The biggest increase in spending was for services for children in care, soaring by 40% from 2010/11 to 2018/19.
The report finds councils have had to make difficult spending decisions to bridge the gap between the funding received from central government and what they need in order to keep services going, such as reallocating funds from other budgets.
The charities are urging the Government to help local authorities by injecting funds into the children’s social care system to make more preventative early intervention services like family support and children’s centres possible to lessen the need for costly late intervention work.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“Even before the lockdown children were facing growing challenges. Now there is a new wave of ‘hidden’ children, falling into poverty, experiencing domestic abuse and tipping the existing crisis in mental health into catastrophe.
“We know there will be a massive increase in demand for support, with the effects of the pandemic felt for years to come. But the overstretched system cannot cope, and the Government must step in to fund vital early intervention services, so families get the help they need before reaching crisis point.
“But it is not simply about money – we need to spend resources wisely. This is why Barnardo’s is taking a radical new approach – working with national and local partners and investing our own resource to co-design and deliver services that change children’s lives, and the system around them, for the better.”
The Children’s Society Chief Executive, Mark Russell, added:
“Even before the current crisis, we were gravely concerned that the huge funding shortfall facing local government would leave ever more vulnerable children in danger.
“Now, the risks children continue to face inside and outside the home may be hidden from the view of professionals until the lockdown is lifted. Councils may then face a perfect storm of soaring demand to support young people amid massive new financial pressures.
“They desperately need extra funding from the government to support these children and rebuild early intervention services to ensure many more young people get help before they reach crisis point.”
To provide the estimate of central government funding for children and young people’s services the charities used core spending power, detailed through the Local Government Finance Settlement published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
For the figures about the spending on children and young people’s services, they reviewed publicly available section 251 data published by the Department for Education, while in their analysis about spending on early and late intervention the charities took a broad approach to defining early intervention, incorporating some universal and targeted services.
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