Latest figures show that councils spent £480,513 on Sure Start children’s centres in 2017/18, almost 25 per cent less than the £637,265 spent in 2014/15.The LGA is warning that the chronic underfunding of children’s services means children’s centres are facing a fight for survival, unless the Government acts in this year’s Spending Review.
Research by the Sutton Trust last year found as many as 1,000 children’s centres may have closed since 2009.
While spending on children’s centres has fallen, councils have had to increase how much money is spent on children in care by almost a fifth. Councils spent nearly £4.3 billion providing vital care and support for looked after children in 2017/18, up 18 per cent since 2014/15.
The funding pressures are so great that nine in 10 councils are now overspending their children’s social care budgets, which includes funding for children’s centres. The LGA warns it is “inevitable” councils will be forced to close more children’s centres unless children’s services, which face a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025, are properly funded in the Spending Review.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Children’s centres can give a lifeline for children, parents and carers, offering an incredibly important service in the local community.
“While many councils have adapted well to the funding pressures and changed how they provide children’s centre services, there is a growing sense that councils have done all they can within ever-tightening budgets.
“It is inevitable that without new investment from government in children’s services, councils will face the difficult but unavoidable decision of having to cut or close early-help services such as children’s centres.”
See www.local.gov.uk/councils-can for the LGA’s Spending Review campaign