County councils have warned they could struggle to cope with a rise in vulnerable children needing support as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
New analysis published today (22 May) by the County Councils Network (CCN) predicts a ‘perfect storm’ of lower budgets, rising demand and fewer preventative services to support young people, which could have a long-term impact on their ability to support vulnerable children and troubled families.
According to the CCN, core government funding for children’s services has been reduced by 35% – around £354m – since 2015/16.
These reductions are higher than any other part of the country and came at the same time the costs of providing these services increased £600m over the same period.
On top of funding reductions before the outbreak councils are having to contend with the increased costs of coronavirus, with the 36 county authorities in CCN membership initially estimating a further £132m of costs will added to their children’s social care budgets this year.
The local government has called on the government to cover all additional costs faced by councils in their children’s services departments as a result of the pandemic, ‘safeguard’ existing funding for troubled families and set out long-term sustainable funding for children’s services in this year’s planned Spending Review.
As a result of the funding reductions councils have had to scale back many of the very services these families will need such as Sure Start, youth centres and learning support. Today’s analysis shows spending on preventative and early intervention services by county authorities dropped by £172m since 2015/16.
The CCN has called on the government cover all additional costs faced by councils in their children’s services departments as a result of the pandemic – both now and in the immediate aftermath, including the increased costs of delivering support whilst fulfilling government guidelines, such as social distancing.
‘Young people will not stop being neglected or abused during coronavirus so we sadly expect a rise in cases once lockdown ends, especially with the emotional and economic impact of the virus on families,’ said CCN’s spokesman for children and young people, Cllr Keith Glazier.
‘It is vital that we put in place robust plans to support all of the vulnerable children and families who will have seen a dramatic change in their circumstances during this unprecedented period.
‘However, with reductions in funding, rising demand and preventative services being reduced, children’s services face a perfect storm as we emerge from lockdown,’ added Cllr Glazier.
‘Preventative and early intervention services will help families back to their feet, so the government must help councils now to ensure that money for Troubled Families is available now to scale up family support services, rather than have these funds trapped at central level due to the pause on bureaucratic form-filling, alongside additional funding for coronavirus-related costs.
‘This crisis hastens for the spending review to set out a long-term sustainable funding settlement for children’s services and work with councils to reform services so they are focused on prevention, rather than crisis management.’
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