£3bn overspend on children’s social care

Councils have overspent on children’s social care budgets by more than £3 billion in the past five years, as unprecedented demand and funding shortages have put them under increasing pressure, the LGA has warned.

It wants ministers to use the forthcoming review of the children’s social care system to work with councils to understand what is driving demand and how councils can provide vital care for our most vulnerable, but also invest in early help and prevention services.

There are now more than 52,000 children subject to a child protection plan – an increase of 53 per cent since 2010. The number of children in care (78,150) has increased by 28 per cent in the past decade.

This sharp rise in need for urgent child protection services has coincided with reductions in central government funding for councils. This has increasingly meant funding being diverted from the early intervention and preventative services, which help families and young people before they reach crisis point, into services to protect those at immediate risk.

For example, councils spent 25 per cent less on children’s centres in 2017/18 compared with 2014/15.

LGA analysis reveals that councils have tried to protect budgets for children, with these rising by an average of more than £600 million a year over the past five years. Despite this, councils have still had to overspend each year, and by a total of £3.2 billion over the same five-year period.

Extra government funding will help meet demand and cost pressures this year, the LGA said. It is looking to this year’s Spending Review for long-term, sustainable funding for children’s services.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils need to play a lead role in the Government’s review of the care system, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure it looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference. “A long-term sustainable funding solution would enable councils to protect children at immediate risk of harm while also supporting early help to prevent problems escalating in the first place.”

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