Government 'ignoring children's social care crisis'

By Joe Lepper

| 21 June 2017

Council leaders and children's campaigners have criticised the government for failing to tackle the "children's social care crisis" as part of its legislative programme for the new parliament.

NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang says thousands of children are missing out on the help they need. Picture: Alex Deverill

The Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and the National Children's Bureau (NCB) have all spoken out about a lack of focus on improving children's social care in the Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's legislative intentions for the next two years. 

The NCB said that while the government proposes to stage a consultation on the future of adult social care it has no plans for an equivalent for children's social care.

The charity said cash-strapped children's services are struggling to meet demand for social care and it fears that vulnerable children are missing out on support unless extra money is made available.

"We urgently need a review of how the social care needs of vulnerable children will be met, alongside the consultation of adult care announced in the Queen's Speech," NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang said.

"The government continues to overlook the crisis facing children's services. Demand is outstripping resource, leaving thousands of children missing out on the help they need, including children in local authority care, children who have been abused and neglected, and young people with disabilities.

"Without additional funding, social care will become an emergency service - stepping in only when children reach crisis point."

The LGA estimates children's services will face a £2bn funding gap by 2020, which it said the government needs to address.

"Local authority budgets continue to shrink whilst demand for children's social care services has more than doubled," Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said. 

"In the last 10 years, we've witnessed a 140 per cent increase in child protection enquiries, and this shows little sign of abating. 

"Local government leaders are calling on the government to commit to the life chances of children and young people by acting urgently to address the £2bn funding gap.

"This gap will continue to grow unless action is taken now to reduce the number of families relying on the children's social care system for support."

Yesterday's Queen's Speech was heavily dominated by legislative plans around Brexit and did not feature a number of controversial manifesto promises.

Abandoned policies included plans to scrap free meals for primary school children and allow new grammar schools to be opened.

Earlier this week Tim Loughton, a former children's minister and Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, told CYP Now that he was concerned about the lack of focus in his party's manifesto on improving children's services.

Child poverty campaigners have welcomed the continuation of free meals for primary school pupils but are concerned the Queen's Speech fails to outline any plans for addressing child poverty.

"What worries us most is that missing from the government's programme is any recognition or sense of urgency around the growing child poverty crisis," said Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham.

"Despite the Prime Minister promising to prioritise the ‘burning injustice' of poverty when she walked into Downing Street last summer, child poverty is still set to soar to over five million by the end of the parliament, and the government doesn't seem to have any coherent plan or strategy to get that number down."

Sam Royston, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, added: "The lack of policies to tackle rising child poverty is the key failure of this legislative programme. Child poverty has a massive impact on children's lives. It leads to a poorer childhood and worse outcomes throughout life, as well as cost to society of £29bn a year."

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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