I continue to be amazed by the extraordinary efforts of the staff working in local authorities to support their towns, cities and communities. As Alison Michalska perfectly summed it up in her blog earlier this year, ‘the impact of local government on people's lives is difficult to express, we don't just fulfil one role, we fulfil thousands'. And we do it all against a backdrop of reducing budgets and increasing demand.
In children's services departments, up and down the country, hardworking, dedicated staff are working tirelessly, together with their partners, to make sure that children and young people are kept safe from harm and are given every opportunity in life. This is no easy task as the need for our help and support shows no sign of easing and we face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. Despite this, local authorities are having to divert funding away from essential services such as bin collections and filling pot holes, whilst we are having to cut the very services that we know protect children and families from reaching harm in the first place.
Next month, ADCS publishes the latest phase of its Safeguarding Pressures research and we hope the evidence from this will inform the DfE's submission to the Treasury's 2019 Spending Review. ADCS has been completing this exercise since 2010 by collecting and comparing data from local authorities in six phases spanning 2007/08 to 2017/18. This means that, for the first time, we will be able to compare a decade's worth of data and helpfully 140 local authorities, covering 95 per cent of the total child population in England, have submitted their data. This valuable evidence base will give us a much clearer picture of the pressures local authorities are facing in children's safeguarding activity.
Over the past 10 years, we've seen the need for children's services grow as funding has reduced, and while local authorities have done everything they can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, there's now nowhere left to turn. Instead, we're forced to make counterintuitive decisions, like targeting early help services, which only adds to pressures further down the line. Current resourcing simply doesn't meet the levels of need we're seeing, yet we still have statutory obligations to fulfil. The money has to come from somewhere which means that other vital, preventative services are cut even further, not to mention the wider services that communities value, like parks and libraries.
Safeguarding Pressures Phase 6 will bring the evidence base up to date for today's context and the findings will seek to build upon the huge array of research and reports already out there which clearly show the pressures that local authorities are experiencing. Only this year, reports from the APPG for Children and the Children's Commissioner and Institute for Fiscal Studies have evidenced the effects that cuts to children's services have had on children and families. The evidence base will continue to grow but we need to start seeing change. We simply can't go on as we are, the findings from this research must be heard and acted upon before it's too late.
Stuart Gallimore is DCS in East Sussex and president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website