Children’s services are ill-prepared to cope with the ‘torrent of extra challenges’ presented by the coronavirus lockdown, a series of reports by some by the UK’s largest charities has warned.
The reports by the Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau warns overstretched services will struggle to cope after the coronavirus crisis to cope with the expected rise in demand.
They claim many children and families could slip through the cracks, doomed to reach crisis point before any help is provided.
The reports argue many councils are in a ‘Catch 22; situation because while they know the best long-term option is to invest in early intervention services, like children’s centres and youth workers, they cannot afford to do this.
And they notes that funding from central government for children’s services has fallen by £2.2 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19, so many local authorities cannot afford to pay for early intervention services.
At the start of the decade, late intervention, including child protection teams and youth justice services, accounted for 58% of local authority spending on children and young people’s services.
According to the reports, this figure had risen to 78% by 2018/19.
But thee biggest increase in spending was for services for children in care, soaring by 40% from 2010/11 to 2018/19.
The reports say councils have had to make difficult spending decisions to bridge the gap between the funding received from central government and what they need in order to keep services going.
But the leading children’s charities warn this is not sustainable in the long run – and some local authorities were already spending reserves in order to support children’s services provision.
The charities say the government must help local authorities by injecting funds to repair the children’s social care system.
Last month, the Children’s Commissioner for England warned hundreds of thousands of children in England are living with a ‘cocktail’ of secondary risks as the coronavirus lockdown continues.
‘We have long warned about the ‘perfect storm’ facing children’s social care, and the gap between demand and resource will widen further as a result of coronavirus,’ said Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan
‘Even before the lockdown children were facing growing challenges, from knife crime and gangs, to cyberbullying and online grooming. Now there is a new wave of “hidden” children, falling into poverty, experiencing domestic abuse and tipping the existing crisis in mental health into catastrophe.’
The Children’s Society chief executive, Mark Russell, added: ‘Even before the current crisis, we were gravely concerned that the huge funding shortfall facing local government would leave ever more vulnerable children in danger.
‘Now, the risks children continue to face inside and outside the home may be hidden from the view of professionals until the lockdown is lifted. Councils may then face a perfect storm of soaring demand to support young people amid massive new financial pressures.’
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