A record number of children with mental health problems were seen by social workers last year, an increase of more than a half in five years, latest figures show.
The number of children needing help from councils for mental health issues was 87,750 in 2022 – an increase of nearly 53 per cent on the 57,410 recorded in 2018.
This comes at a time when children’s services are one of the most significant pressures on council budgets because of rising demand and the increasing cost of providing care and support.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, is calling on the Government to adequately fund children’s social care in the Autumn Statement, and meet the £1.6 billion cost pressure already in the system to help to stabilise the children’s social care system to ensure that children are safe and families receive the support they need.
LGA analysis shows that councils spent over £10.5 billion on children’s social care in 2020/21, nearly 25 per cent more than the £8.5 billion spent in 2016/17.
This is due to councils providing vital support to record high numbers of children in care as well as managing increased complexity of children’s needs, including the emergence of increasingly severe mental health needs requiring more intensive support packages.
The LGA is also calling for additional funding for children’s mental health services to provide the wraparound support increasingly needed by children, including community services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and inpatient provision.
Councils have previously warned of the number of children with mental health problems rising rapidly as a result of the devastating impact of COVID-19 with successive lockdowns and school closures harming young people’s mental wellbeing.
With the current cost-of-living crisis likely to push more families into poverty, the LGA is concerned that even more children will require support, meaning it is crucial that children’s social care is funded to meet this extra demand.
Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“The fact that record numbers of children are seeking help from councils for mental health problems should emphasise to Government the need to adequately fund children’s services and mental health support in the Autumn Statement.
“These alarming figures show the huge challenges facing children’s social care and the urgent need to ensure that young people get the support they need, as soon as they need it.
“Councils are doing all they can but are buckling under significant funding pressures to ensure they can support children and their families.
“This is why it is vital the Autumn Statement delivers a lifeline for children’s services, which risk becoming overwhelmed as the cost-of-living crisis pushes many more households to the brink.”
1. Figures in factors identified at the end of assessment by local authority in England between 2018 and 2022 show the following number of mental health concerns about a child recorded by social workers.
2. The LGA has launched its Save Local Services campaign, urging the Government to meet additional inflationary cost pressures in its upcoming Autumn Statement and avoid cuts to frontline council services.