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Soaring demand to protect vulnerable children drives cost of care up by a quarter – new LGA analysis

Soaring demand to protect vulnerable children at risk of harm has seen spending to provide support increase by almost a quarter in five years, with an upcoming national care review a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to set out long-awaited reform, councils are warning today.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, is urging the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to call for a white paper by the autumn, as well as a long-term funding solution for services that have been “stuck in crisis mode” for too long.

The review was commissioned by government to look at where and how far the children’s social care system needs to change.

Children’s services departments are currently focussing much of their resources into supporting those who are in most desperate need of help.

It means many councils are struggling to invest in the early help services that prevent families from reaching crisis point in the first place.

This comes as latest figures show that councils in England spent over £10.5 billion on children’s social care in 2020/21 – nearly 25 per cent higher than in 2016/17, where expenditure was almost £8.5 billion.

They also reveal:

  • More than two thirds of councils are now overspending their budgets, to keep up with rising demand to support vulnerable children. Councils overspent by more than £800 million in the year 2020/21. This is despite councils increasing their budgets by £708 million that year and by £1.2 billion in the past two years. 
  • In the past decade, the number of Section 47 enquiries, carried out when councils have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or at risk of, significant harm has increased from 111,700 in 2011 to 198,790 in 2021 - a rise of 78 per cent. 
  • The number of children in care in England has increased from 65,510 in 2011 to 80,850 in 2021 – a 23 per cent rise. 

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“This is a crucial year for the services that support our children and young people, with the schools white paper, a SEND green paper and the care review all being published in quick succession.

“Councils, and the children, young people and families that they work with, have waited a long time for all of these pieces to be published.

“Children’s social care services have been stuck in crisis mode for too long. We are ready to start making the changes that will improve our services and make children’s lives better.

“These new figures demonstrate how hard councils are working to invest in the services children need. However spiralling costs and increased demand means that funding is largely supporting those in most urgent need of help. We continue to call on the Government to invest additional funding in the strong family help services that can prevent families from reaching crisis point.

“The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is a once-in-a-generation chance to reform our systems to make sure all children and their families receive the right support at the right time, to enable them to thrive. The review must be followed by a children’s social care white paper that demonstrates government’s commitment to investing in and reforming the services that change children’s lives.”

Notes to editors

Original article link: https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/soaring-demand-protect-vulnerable-children-drives-cost-care-quarter-new-lga-analysis

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