LGA issues child protection warning over social care funding gap

By Neil Puffett

| 12 January 2018

Children could be left in circumstances of risk unless the government acts to plug an estimated £2bn funding gap, councils have warned.

Richard Watts said "staggering" pressure has been building on children's services for a number of years.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that children's services in England now receive a new referral every 49 seconds and now the government needs to provide more money to help councils meet the demand for social care.

It has warned that, unless more funding is forthcoming, social workers will struggle to deal with current levels of child protection concerns, meaning children could be left in potentially dangerous circumstances.

Department for Education figures published in November showed that there were 646,120 referrals to children's social care in 2016/17, up 3.97 per cent on the previous year.

The rising volume of referrals has led the number of section 47 child protection enquiries, whereby councils must investigate if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, conducted by councils rise from an average of 200 a day in 2006/7 to more than 500 a day in 2016/17.

"We will always encourage people to refer any concerns about children to their local authority as soon as possible, so that the situation can be investigated and support or immediate protection put in place where necessary," Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board said.

"But while these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children's services for a number of years."

He added: "The government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts, including the £2bn gap that councils face by 2020, have left them struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need.

"Unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention, many more vulnerable children remain at risk."

The children's charity Action for Children has backed the LGA's call for more money.

"With no long-term funding solution on the table, many children's services are having to move towards a ‘crisis' fire-fighting approach," said Eleanor Biggs, head of policy at Action for Children.

"We're calling on the government to prioritise the services children need before this turns into a catastrophe for the next generation of children and families."

The LGA previously called on the government to plug the estimated £2bn funding gap in children's social care in October as part of its submission to the Autumn Statement.

In October the Association of Directors of Children's Services called on government to review section 17 of the Children Act 1989, which sets out the duty on local councils to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need.

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