Three-tier Covid restrictions come at ‘significant cost’ to local authorities, LGA warns
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Services for children and young people, including local authority support and early years provision, need an injection of funding to cope with new local lockdown restrictions, experts have said.
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiling new tiered lockdown levels, local authorities will face “significant social and economic costs of higher restrictions”, the Local Government Association has said.
Councils in tier three areas, which currently only includes Merseyside, will see almost all household mixing banned, pubs and bars closed.
Schools and nurseries will remain open, Johnson said.
However, before new measures were introduced, LGA research found that local authorities need a £10bn boost by 2024 to cope with the demands of coronavirus.
This includes ringfenced funding of £1.9bn for children’s services to cover the cost of a spike in referrals after lockdown.
The Department for Education’s most recent vulnerable children and young people survey found that referrals to children’s services over the two weeks from 10 to 23 August were up 12 per cent on the same period over the last three years.
The LGA has welcomed a government pledge of extra funding for councils in tier three as well as a further £1bn for all local authorities combined, however, warn that local authorities will need further powers to control the spread of the virus in their own areas to avoid prolonged restrictions.
Councillor James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said: “Driving strong local action and effective contact tracing will add further pressure to already over-stretched council budgets so we are pleased government will provide much-needed additional funding for areas at alert level 3 and that councils will also benefit from a further £1 billion relating to wider Covid-19 cost pressures. We await further details around this funding.
“We know the significant social and economic costs of higher restrictions. People need to know that a drop in infection rates will result in an easing of restrictions as quickly as possible. This new tiered approach must also allow local councillors and public health experts to respond to specific causes of spikes in infections in their areas.
“The pandemic has shone a light on the highly valued services councils provide including children’s services.
“Securing the immediate and long-term sustainability of local services must be the top priority.”
Early years leaders have also called for more funding for providers in areas with higher restrictions.
Liz Bayram, chief executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), described restrictions allowing providers to stay open as “a lifeline”.
However, it “does nothing to address the ongoing challenges providers in all areas are facing – increased costs, lower than usual attendance and temporary closures due to suspected cases of Covid-19”, she said.
“PACEY continues to call for more financial support for these vital services, so they will survive the pandemic and play their part in not only our economic recovery but in supporting children, especially disadvantaged children, to get the best start in life.”