90 children a day entering care - urgent cash injection needed for children's services

A record number of children now in the care system, councils reveal today.


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Ninety children a day entered care last year with a record number of children now in the care system, councils reveal today.

The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said official figures show the total number of looked after children reached a new high of 72,670 in 2016/17 - up from 70,440 the year before.

This also represents the biggest annual rise of children in care in seven years as stretched children’s services continue to face increasing pressure.

At its National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) in Bournemouth today, the LGA said the figures highlight the urgent need for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement next month to address the £2 billion funding gap facing children’s services by 2020.

This is the only way to ensure children and families are able to get the support they need, when they need it, to avoid children having to go into care wherever possible.

Without action, the numbers of children coming into care will continue to rise and councils will find it even harder to support them and their families.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Children’s services are at a tipping point with growing demand for support combining with ongoing council funding pressures to become unsustainable.

“Last year saw the biggest rise in the number of children in care for seven years. With 90 children coming into care every day, our calls for urgent funding to support these children and invest in children and their families are becoming increasingly urgent.

“Children’s services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. If nothing is done to address this funding gap crucial services that many children and families across the country desperately rely on will be put at risk.

“We are calling on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to commit to fully funding children’s services and invest in improving services to ensure vulnerable children get the appropriate support and protection they need.”

The LGA is also calling on Ministers to invest in improving children’s services by devolving a proportion of the Department for Education’s £300 million budget for centrally-run improvement and innovation programmes to councils.

This would help deliver an enhanced programme of sector-led support for children’s services, offering everything from regular ‘health checks’ and training for lead members and senior officers, to specific support for those councils judged to require improvement.

Investment sector-led improvement is common place in other government departments, including DCLG and the Department of Health, and has proven to be highly effective. A similar approach should be taken with children’s services.

Notes

  1. The National Children and Adult Services Conference is widely recognised as the most important annual event of its kind for councillors, directors, senior officers, policymakers and service managers with responsibilities for children's services, adult care and health in the statutory, voluntary and private sector. Organised by the LGA Association of Directors of Social Services (ADASS) and Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS), the conference is regularly attended by more than 1,000 delegates. Speakers include LGA Chairman Lord Porter, Jackie Doyle-Price, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, Barbara Keeley MP, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, Niall Dickson, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation and Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Public Health England.
     
  2. The LGA has launched the campaign Bright Futures, calling on the Government to fully fund children's services. Find out more about the campaign and download our 7-point plan to improving children's services at www.local.gov.uk/bright-futures
     
  3. The Department for Education’s Looked After Children Statistics for 2016/2017 can be found here.