Constricted funding and ever increasing demand have left children’s services in England at breaking point, a report published today by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has found.
The report, ahead of the spending review, calls for a funding settlement that reflects the challenges local authorities face in delivering children’s social care, and recommends a minimum increase to core grant funding of £3.1 billion up until 2025.
The committee says that while local authorities are responding to financial and service pressures by prioritising child protection work and reducing spending on non-statutory children’s services, the majority are still overspending their annual budgets.
They recommend specifically that a day rate payment, equal to that of unaccompanied asylum seeking children and payable by the Home Office, should be introduced to enable local authorities to better support children within no recourse to public funds families and that the day rate payment for unaccompanied asylum seeking children should be increased.
MP’s also recommend that increased funding must go hand-in-hand with systemic change if local authority children’s services are to be sustainable in the long-term and more work needs to be undertaken to understand and address the factors driving ever increasing demand for children’s services.
Barriers to creating greater residential care placement capacity should be investigated and addressed and the Government must better understand the pressures facing social workers and the wider care workforce to improve recruitment and retention.
Committee Chair, Clive Betts MP, commented:
“Supporting vulnerable children is one of the most important duties that local authorities provide. It is vital that we have the right support available in every part of the country, to ensure that vulnerable children get the support they need. Over the last decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of children needing support, whilst at the same time funding has failed to keep up.
“It is clear that this approach cannot be sustained, and the Government must make serious financial and systemic changes to support local authorities in helping vulnerable children. They must understand why demand is increasing and whether it can be reduced. They must ensure that the funding formula actually allows local authorities to meet the obligations for supporting children that the Government places on them.
“We have reached a crisis point and action is needed now.”