“Councils need to be given a seat at the table for the care system review, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure this looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference."
New figures show that the number of children in care has risen by 28 per cent in the past decade with the system reaching breaking point, the Local Government Association reveals today.
The LGA is warning that this huge increase in demand is combining with funding shortages to put immense pressure on the ability of councils to support vulnerable children and young people, and provide the early help that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place. The figures show that 78,150 children are now in care, up from 75,370 in 2018.
The Government’s manifesto promise of a review of the children’s social care system, is a great opportunity for them to work with councils and partners, such as schools, social workers and foster carers to improve the system. The LGA says this collaboration is vital if the review is to deliver change where it is most needed amid this unprecedented demand.
Central to this review must be securing the financial sustainability of children’s social care services, the LGA said. This is the only way 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.
Councils 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, despite allocating more money than the previous year to try to keep up with demand.
According to the latest data:
- Councils have seen a 53 per cent increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade.
- In the past decade, there has been a 139 per cent increase in serious case where the local authority believes a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, an additional 117,070 cases (up to 201,170).
- The age of children in care has been steadily increasing over the past five years. Young people over 10 years old account for 63 per cent of all in care, with teenagers being six times more likely than younger children to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, which is significantly more expensive than foster care.
Any funding commitment for children’s social care should also enable councils to fully support kinship carers, who provide vital care for children often outside the formal care system, and care leavers, making sure that these young people get the same opportunities as their peers.
Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade.
“This is unsustainable. 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.
“Councils need to be given a seat at the table for the care system review, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure this looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference.
“It needs to ensure that children’s services are fully funded and councils can not only support those children who are in care, but provide the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.”