Local safety nets and early help services need to be properly funded to avoid children and their families falling into crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on all of us, and councils have been at the forefront of local responses since day one.
That has included keeping children safe, working with schools to ensure access to education and providing practical support for the most vulnerable.
Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to deliver these vital services.
Despite this phenomenal effort, the main challenges for children’s services are yet to come – as we set out in our new report, ‘A child-centred recovery’.
As children return to school, and as the full, long-term impact of COVID-19 becomes apparent, councils anticipate a sharp increase in demand for everything from universal support services through to urgent child protection responses.
Families will need help as they try to cope with mental health challenges, job losses, substance misuse problems, bereavements and more as a result of the pandemic.
Schools are also going to be under significant pressure as they work to put children’s mental wellbeing at the forefront while helping children to get their learning back on track.
And there is a real risk that the impact of the pandemic will fall hardest on those children already at a disadvantage, whether economically or socially.
Councils and the Government need to work swiftly to deal with the immediate challenges to children, young people and their families, if we are to avoid long-term damage to their prospects. And supporting families through the next stages of the pandemic will be key to helping our communities get back on their feet.
We need to make sure:
- mental health support is available, for both children and adults
- local safety nets are properly resourced and well organised to avoid families falling into crisis
- actions are put in place to prevent the disadvantage gap widening further
- long-standing challenges, such as the underfunding of children’s social care, are addressed.
Our report says investment in local safety nets should start with the reinstatement of the £1.7 billion that has been lost from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010.
We also need to shore up the universal and early help services – including mental health and wellbeing services – that children, young people and their families will need to support them through the short and long-term impacts of the pandemic.
Action to prevent the attainment gap from widening should include immediate work to stabilise the early years sector and support children and young people to attend school or to continue learning from home where required. And we also call for a cross-Whitehall strategy that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery.
COVID-19 continues to be an extraordinary challenge, but it has forced us to look again at every aspect of our work. We now need councils and the Government to put children’s needs at the heart of recovery, putting their voices at the centre as intended by the Children Act 1989 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A town, village, city, county or region that works for children and young people works for everyone.