Eight in ten councils forced to overspend on children’s social care amid soaring demand

More than eight in ten councils in England responsible for children’s social care overspent in the previous financial year, despite councils increasing their budgets by £535 million that year and by £1.1 billion in the past two years.

07/06/21

Eight in ten councils forced to overspend on children’s social care amid soaring demand

Funding pressures and “soaring demand” meant councils in England had to overspend on children’s social care budgets by £832 million in 2019/20, new analysis shows.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says councils want to work with Government to prioritise a child-centred recovery plan, and that the review of children’s social care “must include a long-term sustainable funding solution so councils can protect children at risk of harm.”

Councils are also urging government to reinstate the £1.7 billion removed from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010 to help prevent problems escalating in the first place.

The new data shows that 86% of all councils in England responsible for children’s social care overspent in the year to 2019/20, despite increasing their budgets by £535 million that year and by £1.1 billion in the past two years.

The LGA says the reason for this is partly due to a rise in Section 47 enquiries – carried out when councils have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or at risk of significant harm – which have more than doubled in the past decade.

Similarly, the number of children in care in England has increased from 64,470 in 2010 to 80,080 in 2020 – a 24% rise.

It says this “sharp rise” in need for urgent child protection services in recent years has meant councils have been forced to divert limited resources from the early intervention and preventative services which help families and young people before they reach crisis point, into services to protect those at immediate risk.

The LGA said councils fear the pandemic will further fuel demand for children’s services with councils having even less money available to help young people and families in need of support, cutting universal and early help services, such as children’s centres and youth services, in order to prioritise spend on looked-after children and child protection services.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said leaders “stand ready” to work with the Government on a solution.

“The demand on children’s social care services is unsustainable. Councils have increased their budgets for children’s services by diverting funds from other areas but due to spiralling demand for support they are still overspending and fear this will continue as pent-up demand due to the pandemic becomes clearer,” Bramble said.

“Supporting and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important roles played by councils who want to ensure all children are safe, loved and thrive. It is vital that children’s services are fully funded to give children the right help at the right time, which includes providing the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.”

View the full local authority revenue expenditure and financing data: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-authority-revenue-expenditure-and-financing#2019-to-2020

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