Spending on children in care exceeds £4bn for first time

By Neil Puffett

| 27 September 2018

The amount spent by councils supporting children who have been taken into care is set to rise by more than £370m this year, breaking the £4bn barrier for the first time.

The amount spent by councils on children in care is set to rise by £370m this year. Picture: MorgueFile

Figures published by the Department for Education show that total spend by local authorities across England on children in care will increase to £4.16bn for 2018/19, a rise of £370.1m on the 2017/18 figure of £3.79bn.

The increase in spending coincides with consistent rises is numbers of children in care - at the end of March 2017 the figure stood at 72,670, compared with 70,440 the year before and 69,480 in 2015.

As part of efforts to stem numbers of children entering care the government's What Works Centre for Children's Social Care is investing £2m to test out innovative new ways of tackling the issue, including devolving budgets to social workers to support struggling families how they see fit.

The DfE figures also show that the amount spent on safeguarding services, which includes child protection work, is set to rise by £99.7m, from £2.14bn to £2.24bn.

However, spending on children's centres and services for under-fives is set to drop by a further £30.8m from £661.3m to £630.4m.

And youth service spending is due to fall by £31.4m from £415.8m to £384.5m.


Children's charity Action for Children said that overall budgets for "early intervention" children's services - those designed to help address family problems such as abuse and neglect - have dropped by £743m in the last five years, a decrease of 26 per cent.

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: "Crippling cuts in government funding are putting councils in an impossible position, leaving them with no option but to cut budgets for vital early help services that protect vulnerable children.
 
"We know from our own work that without the safety net of well-funded early help services like children's centres, thousands of children at risk of abuse, neglect or domestic violence are being left to fend for themselves until problems spiral out of control.

"This failure to act with the right help, at the right time, will inevitably have devastating consequences for some children that last a lifetime."

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