General Debate on Children's Social Care in England - House of Commons, 17 January 2019

Children should be supported to get the best, not just to get by. It is however increasingly challenging to turn this ambition into a reality when the financial pressures are forcing an increasing number of councils to make difficult decisions about the allocation of limited resources.

Key Messages

  • Making sure all children and young people have the bright future they deserve is a key ambition of every council. Councils want all young people to be able to enjoy their lives, reach their full potential and make a good transition to adulthood with good health and wellbeing.
  • The positive work of councils in helping our children and young people have the best start in life has been illustrated by the latest Ofsted data on children’s social care which shows that, in 2017/18, the proportion of council children’s services rated good or outstanding has increased.
  • The local authority role in children’s services should go beyond the provision of statutory child protection services alone. Children should be supported to get the best, not just left to get by. However, this ambition is becoming increasingly difficult to realise as financial pressures force increasing numbers of councils to make difficult decisions about the allocation of scarce resources.
  • Councils have worked tirelessly to protect support for vulnerable children, and have increased their spending on children’s social care by almost 10 per cent over the past four years to a record £8.8 billion in 2017/18, an increase of more than £750 million from 2014/15.
  • Although local authority spending on children’s social care has risen, it has not kept pace with growing demand. Children entered care at a rate of 88 a day in 2017, and a child is now referred to children’s services every 49 seconds.
  • The increase in demand for immediate child protection support has left councils struggling to continue funding vital early intervention services that can help to reduce this pressure in the longer term. This problem has been exacerbated by ongoing cuts to the Government’s Early Intervention Grant, which has been reduced by almost £600 million since 2013 and is projected to decrease by almost £100 million more by 2020.
  • Seventy-three per cent of all council spending on children’s social care is now directed towards services for looked after children and safeguarding children and young people. According to the latest revenue outturn (RO3) returns of local authority spend, just five per cent of children’s social care funding is now spent on the category of Sure Start children’s centres, flying start and early years.
  • The overall funding gap facing councils’ children’s services will reach £3.1 billion by 2025. We are calling for this to be plugged and the cuts to early intervention funding to be reversed. This will help councils continue to deliver high quality services for their residents.