Councils ‘bracing’ themselves for rise in referrals

Local authorities are expecting a surge in demand for support for children and young people who have ‘disappeared’ from view as a result of the pandemic, according to a new report.

A new report published today (15 October) by the Local Government Association (LGA) warns some children and families will need significant interventions, including child protection plans or even coming into the care system.

It says for many, they will just need some extra help to get through a difficult period, but others could need more specialist support.

But the report also stresses that councils are facing a £1.7bn funding gap in providing such services.

It says the Early Intervention Grant has been reduced by the government by almost two-thirds – down from £2.8bn in 2010/11 to £1.1bn in 2018/19.

As a result, many children’s services departments have been forced to cut back the universal and early help services – such as children’s centres and family support services, according to the report.

‘Children’s services were already under strain prior to the pandemic, but those pressures have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and these services are now even more crucial to help families get through difficult periods. Funding to meet increased demand for child protection and children in care services is also vital,’ said the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Cllr Judith Blake.

‘Support for significant interventions, including child protection plans and children entering the care system, will be needed, alongside proper investment in both children’s mental health services, which are under enormous strain, and vital youth services to help a generation hit hard during the crisis.’

Responding to the report, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), Jenny Cole said: ‘We share concerns raised about the impact of Covid-19 on children and families, particularly the most vulnerable and significant cuts to funding for early intervention and preventative services.

‘Before the pandemic, children’s services were dangerously close to becoming a ‘blue light’ service, too many children and families were unable to get the support they needed when they needed it and were reaching crisis point as a result,’ she added.

‘Covid-19 is creating a perfect storm of extra challenges for children, families and the services supporting them, and we anticipate significant increases in demand are just around the corner, when the hidden harms of the past seven months become apparent just as the economic downturn begins to bite.’

Photo Credit – FeeLoona (Pixabay)

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