This article titled “Charities warn of ‘devastating cost’ of cuts to children’s services” was written by Sally Weale Education correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 15th November 2017 00.01 UTC
Local authority children’s services are being reduced to crisis-driven firefighting as a result of “crippling” central government funding cuts, according to a report.
Three leading children’s charities are warning that early intervention services, designed to prevent problems escalating and children suffering a crisis, have been hardest hit by budget cuts.
As a result, councils can only afford to get involved when children have already reached crisis point, which may then result in more costly interventions such as being taken into care, the charities say.
The Turning the Tide report by the Children’s Society, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau says council spending on early intervention services, designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse, fell by 40% between 2010/11 and 2015/16.
The £2.4bn government funding cuts come at a time of growing demand for children’s services, with a 108% increase in child protection investigations, according to the report.
The report also claimed that the poorest children have been the hardest hit, with the most deprived councils in England cutting spending on children’s services by almost a quarter (23%), six times as much as the least deprived councils.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, the chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Leaving local authorities without the necessary resources to help children and families at an early stage has a devastating cost, both in social and financial terms.
“With no long-term solution on the table, children’s services are on an unstable and dangerous footing. We’re calling on the government to prioritise the services children need before this crisis turns into a catastrophe for the next generation of children and families.”
Among the early intervention services affected by the cuts are parenting classes, children’s and youth centres, substance misuse prevention, teenage pregnancy support and short breaks for disabled children.
Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, added: “Councils are being denied the funding they need to provide safe, effective children’s services and spending on vital support is collapsing as a result.
“We are at a tipping point, with more cuts yet to come. The government must step up and give councils the funds they need to protect our children.”
A government spokesperson said: “Councils have a duty to provide appropriate care for the children in their area, including responding to referrals.
“We are supporting them to deliver efficient services by investing £200m in the children’s social care innovation programme – this includes projects providing targeted support for children in need.”
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