Children's services spending to increase by £542m

By Neil Puffett

| 29 June 2018

Local authority spending on children's services is rising at a faster rate than any other council services area, with expenditure this year expected to increase by £542m, government figures show.

There were 646,120 referrals to children's social care in 2016/17, up 3.97 per cent on the previous year. Picture: Shutterstock

Statistics published by the Office for National Statistics show that councils have budgeted to spend £8.57bn in 2018/19, up £542m, or 6.8 per cent, compared with the 2017/18 amount of £8.03bn.

This is a faster rate of increase than adult social care, which is due to rise by 3.2 per cent to £16.1bn in 2018/19, up £496m. Education is due to increase by 1.6 per cent to £33.9bn in 2018/19, up £520m.

Overall, 37 per cent of budgeted local authority total service expenditure is to be spent on education, 17 per cent on adult social care, 12 per cent on police and nine per cent on children's social care.

In terms of changes in spending within children's services, expenditure on looked-after children is forecast to be £4.2bn, up by £350m (9.1 per cent) compared with the 2017/18 budget.

Meanwhile spending on child safeguarding is forecast to be £2bn, up by £128m (6.7 per cent).

There were 646,120 referrals to children's social care in 2016/17, up 3.97 per cent on the previous year. And there are currently record numbers of children in care.

Earlier this year a survey of senior leaders at English councils found that children's services are now the top immediate pressure for councils, coming above adult social care for the first time in at least three years.

The Local Government Association has calculated that by 2020, annual spending by councils on children's services will be nearly £2bn more than it was in 2015/16.

Matt Dunkley, chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Service's resources and sustainability policy committee said: "The fact that local authorities are choosing to divert funding away from their other services to prop up children's services in the face of a huge increase in demand, should send out a warning shot across the sector.

"We are facing an unprecedented surge in demand for some of our most expensive child protection services while at the same time we are having to cut the very services that we know reduce that demand.

"The burden of austerity has fallen largely on children and families, as is evidenced by the growth in child poverty and demand for our services.

"Although we welcome the increased spend by councils on children's services, this is still not enough to keep pace with the rising cost of demand, and is still only 9 per cent of planned council spend overall. This does not represent a long term solution.

"We urge government to take action by plugging the funding gap of at least £2bn expected in children's services by 2020 and to help us to turn the tide of demand for statutory services."

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