30 years of Children's Act: next government needs to invest in children's services

Investment in early help family support services can result in fewer children entering care or needing more intensive interventions, saving money and improving outcomes for children in the long run.

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The next government needs to invest in children’s services so councils can fulfil the ambitions of the Children’s Act, the Local Government Association says as it marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

The 1989 Act puts children at the centre of any decisions made that affects them, with councils given the role of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. In the same year the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child set out the rights a child is entitled to and how adults and governments must work together to make that happen. 

At the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth today, the LGA is setting out the next stage of its Bright Futures campaign which calls for children's services to be fully funded, alongside investment in the wider breadth of services which provide children and families with the early support they need. 

This would 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.

It also calls on the next government to set out its ambitions for children working across Whitehall, recognising that all departments impact on the lives of children and families.

It comes as new figures show an unprecedented demand for support.

  • There has been an increase of 23,600 children classed as “in need” in the past decade, from 375,900 in March 2010 compared to 399,500 in March 2019.
  • Councils have also seen a 53 per cent increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade, while 88 children are now taken into care every day to keep them safe.
  • While there has been a 139 per cent increase in serious cases where the local authority believes a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, this is 117,070 extra cases (up to 201,170) since 2009.

Investment in early help family support services can result in fewer children entering care or needing more intensive interventions, saving money and improving outcomes for children in the long run. 

The council-run Troubled Families programme has seen success in this area, with a 32 per cent reduction of children going into care and fewer children have received custodial sentences and convictions. 

Youth Offending Teams, which are partnerships led by councils working with education, policy, health and the National Probation Service, have an excellent track record of working with young people to prevent them coming into the youth justice system, with 86 per cent fewer young people in the youth justice system and a 78 per cent decrease in arrests over the last decade. 

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: 

“The Children’s Act and the UNCRC were landmarks and we owe it to every child and young person to fulfil their visions.

“We want to see all children have the best possible chance of a bright future. For this to happen the next government needs to make sure children and young people are not forgotten by putting them at the centre of all decision-making.

“Most families will go through tough patches at some point, and often the right support provided at the right time will be enough to get families back on their feet and able to thrive. 

“Councils have seen significant increases in demand for children’s social care and need long-term, sustainable funding so they can deliver the best for our children and families.”


1.    The LGA’s Bright Futures campaign for children and young people’s mental health is calling for services that change children’s lives to be properly funded, so that all children and young people can have the bright future they deserve. Read the full report. Further information.

2.    The National Children and Adult Services Conference is being held in Bournemouth from November 20-22. The programme will consist of a mixture of keynote and plenary sessions delivered by prominent figures in the adult, children and education sectors and there will also be opportunities to attend a series of policy workshops and take advantage of various networking sessions. For media accreditation please email [email protected].

3.    According to the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), the estimated cost of intervening too late is nearly £17 billion per year, or £287 per person. The cost of late intervention is spread across different parts of the public sector, with the largest share borne by councils (£6.4 billion), the NHS (£3.4 billion) and the Department for Work and Pensions (£2.7 billion)