A brighter future?

It is now a year since we launched Bright Futures, our vision for the future of children’s social care.

Alongside a national campaign calling for the services that change children’s lives to be properly funded, Bright Futures set out seven key areas for reform designed to support the sector and demonstrate how councils, our multi-agency partners and national government could work together to get the best for children and families.

We want Bright Futures to be a real catalyst for meaningful change, not just another report left to gather dust on a shelf. With that in mind, and with a host of other organisations uniting behind our campaign, we have published an update report to highlight what we have achieved over the past year but also, importantly, to look at where there is still more work to do.

The continued absence of sustainable funding for children’s social care remains a grave concern. With record numbers of children in the care system and councils now starting more than 500 child protection enquiries every day, we believe the case for action has never been more compelling.

“The continued absence of sustainable funding for children’s social care remains a grave concern

Councils across the country are struggling to provide the support that children and families need with the resources available to them, leaving many unable to access help until they reach crisis point. Councils had to spend £800 million more than they had budgeted for children’s social care in the past year alone. This cannot carry on.

There are signs that the Government has started to listen, with our campaigning contributing to the inclusion of new money in October’s Budget. The announcement of £84 million over five years to expand children’s social care programmes in 20 areas is a small step in the right direction, and the flexibility to use £410 million of additional funding for social care in 2019/20 on adult and children’s services is a further acknowledgement of the pressures facing councils.

However, while any additional investment is good news, we are clear that this will do little to alleviate the immediate and future pressures on services for some of the most vulnerable children and families in the vast majority of council areas, and will continue to campaign for a long-term sustainable funding solution in next year’s Spending Review.

It is also encouraging that our call for greater investment in a sector-led approach to improvement has been heeded, helping to secure an additional £20 million for a range of sector-led initiatives, including an enhanced LGA peer support offer.

While this is no replacement for the funding solution that councils need, it is positive that the Government has recognised the value of a collaborative approach, with councils learning from each other.

Despite being under increasing pressure, the recent improvement in Ofsted inspection results shows that children’s services teams are still finding innovative ways to deliver the high-quality services that children and families rely on. But, as councils face the prospect of further funding reductions and a £3 billion funding gap for children’s services by 2025, difficult decisions will have to be made that will have a real and lasting impact.

The Government cannot ignore the consistent warnings that children’s services are at a tipping point. Much more needs to be done if we really want to make sure every child and young person can look forward to the bright future they deserve.

For more information about the LGA’s Bright Futures campaign, including our ‘one year on’ report, visit: www.local.gov.uk/bright-futures

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