Social Media

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Councils stretched as number of child protection inquiries more than doubles

Written by Alison Kershaw

The number of investigations started by councils into whether children are being harmed or at risk has more than doubled in the last decade, town hall bosses have warned.

More than 500 child protection inquiries began each day in 2016/17, compared to around 200 a day 10 years ago, according to figures from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Local authorities are required by law to investigate any circumstances where they have cause to suspect a youngster in their area is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm.

In total, 185,450 enquiries were started in the year ending on March 31, compared to 73,800 for the same period in 2007, the LGA said.

There are many reasons for the rise, according to a recent LGA publication, including increased public awareness and reporting of potential abuse, the impact of poverty and deprivation on families, and a lack of funding to help families early on before problems escalate.

The LGA warned that councils need more funding for early intervention services and to help protect vulnerable children.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "It is alarming that councils are having to undertake around 300 more investigations every day than this time 10 years ago. By 2020, our children's services departments will be facing a funding gap of £2 billion.

"It was extremely disappointing that last month's Budget provided no additional funding for children's services. The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts have left councils struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need.

"Children will only be taken into care if it is absolutely necessary for their own protection. But if concerns are raised, it is absolutely right that the council investigates. With councils now starting 500 child protection investigations each day, along with providing the other vital services that they deliver, children's services have now reached a tipping point.

"This has to be a wake up call to (the) Government that unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention services, many more vulnerable children and families will need formal support from council child protection services in the years to come."

He called on the Government to use the upcoming local government finance settlement - the annual determination of funding for councils - to help plug the gap.

Children's minister Robert Goodwill said: "More than £200 billion will be available to councils for local services up to 2020, and councils increased spending on children and young people's services to over £9 billion in 2015-16.

"Our £200 million Innovation Programme is helping develop new and better ways of delivering children's services. As part of this, we have announced up to £20 million to support further improvement in children's social care services."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved.