Local authority children’s services have been reduced to “crisis-driven fire-fighting” as a result of years of under-investment, children’s charities have warned.
This has left them ill-prepared to cope with the torrent of extra challenges presented by the coronavirus lockdown, according to a report from The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, the NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau.
They warn that local authority budgets have been so squeezed that councils can only afford to get involved when children have reached crisis point and need costly interventions – such as being taken into care – rather than intervening earlier to prevent a crisis.
Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “This report echoes our concerns about the welfare of vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis and adds further support to our long-standing call for children’s services to be properly funded by the Government.
“Since stay-at-home guidance was issued, and with people self-isolating, children’s social care referrals have fallen by more than half in some areas, from an average of almost 1,800 per day. Councils are extremely concerned about potential ‘hidden harm’ among children.
“Councils are working with their partners and communities to try to identify children who may be at risk, and putting in place plans so that, if there is a surge in referrals as children return to school, they are able to ensure children and families get the right help quickly.
“It is vital that councils receive the funding they need to support children, young people and families during the current phase of the crisis and through the recovery period. The impact of the pandemic on some children will be far-reaching, and it will be essential that the right services are there to support them.”