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‘Huge regional variation’ for young people on Child in Need plans

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza says vulnerable children who are on social service plans are getting a postcode lottery.

06/03/24

‘Huge regional variation’ for young people on Child in Need plans

A new report finds significant regional variations in the level of protection received by children on Child in Need plans.

The report, from the office of the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza says over 100,000 of England’s most vulnerable children who are on social service plans are getting a postcode lottery of support.

In worst case scenarios, these inconsistencies and lack of consistent early intervention can prevent children and families from getting the help they need and can lead to devasting long term consequences.

“As Children’s Commissioner, I have a statutory duty to promote and protect the rights of all children, but to have particular regard to children who are living away from home or receiving social care services,” Dame Rachel de Souza said.

“I am passionate about making sure all children are supported to live with their families whenever that is in their best interests, so I don’t want any child to miss out on the support that can make that happen. But it also matters because of the crisis we are now seeing in funding for local authorities, some of which is being driven by the incredibly high costs of placements for children in care.

“It is only by getting help right at this earlier stage that we will prevent this escalation in costs. Whilst some children will always need care, and won’t be able to live with their birth family, where additional support would make that possible, we all must do whatever we can to make that happen. It is better for children, better for families and better for the taxpayer.”

Young people on Child in Need plans are incredibly varied and might be experiencing a range of challenges – they might be a young carer, or being targeted for criminal exploitation, or have a parent struggling with substance misuse, or be experiencing the domestic abuse of a parent.

This report draws on data collected, but not previously analysed, about these children to show which groups of children are getting plans, where in the country they are, and how long they are staying on these plans. It shows that in some areas of the country the vast majority of children involved with social care are placed on child in need plans, while in others it is relatively few. It shows that disabled children are on plans for, on average, four times as long as other children. And that there is huge variation in whether children with severe special educational needs are getting plans or not.

Dame De Souza says there will be a range of reasons for this variation, but that she hopes the report “opens up a deep and honest conversation about what the purpose of child in need plans should be, why things are done so differently in different areas, and how we can improve support for this group of children so that they can thrive.”

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