Councils over spend on children's services by £880m

Budgets stretched due to funding pressures and increased demand

Published on 28th August 2019

Local authorities were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800 million last year in order to try and keep children safe, it has emerged.

The Local Government Association has warned that the number of councils spending more on children's services than they budgeted for indicates the immense pressure they are under to support vulnerable children and young people.

Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, said: “Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.

“Funding pressures coinciding with huge increases in demand mean it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that.

“Up to 1,796 referrals are made to council children’s social services every day - more than one referral a minute.

“In order to keep children at most risk safe, councils up and down the country have been forced to find savings from non-statutory or discretionary budgets, which includes valuable early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point. This is not sustainable," she added.

Analysis by the LGA shows that councils budgeted an additional £542 million in 2018/19 for children’s social care. However, despite trying to protect children’s social care budgets by diverting cash from other local services, councils had to spend £770 million more than they planned.

The overspend has resulted from significant government funding cuts, increased demand for child protection services and increasing costs to give children the support they need and budgets cannot keep up.

The analysis reiterates recent concerns raised by MPs on both the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee that current funding levels for local services are unsustainable.

In the last 10 years, there has been an 84 per cent increase in children being supported on child protection plans, and an additional 15,920 children in care.

As demand for urgent child protection services has grown, councils have been forced to divert money away from early intervention and preventative services towards services that protect those children at most immediate risk of harm.

Councils are in a unique position of being able to make the real and effective change needed locally that will ultimately help to solve some of the biggest problems the nation is facing and changing the lives of their communities. By securing the sustainability of children’s social care services, the government can ensure councils can deliver their legal duties, protect the preventative services which support families before they reach crisis point and improve the lives of children and families.

Cllr Bramble concluded: “It is therefore vital that the government uses the upcoming Spending Round to fully fund the demand on children’s services next year to allow councils to provide the vital support that children and families rely on.”


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