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Friday, 12 January 2018

Councils warn on social work funding as child referrals hit one every 49 seconds

Written by Alison Kershaw

Hundreds of thousands of youngsters were referred to children's services last year - the equivalent of one every 49 seconds, town hall chiefs have warned.

Social workers are working hard to investigate concerns and keep children safe, but more money must be pumped into councils to help cope with demand, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Local children's services are facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020, it warned, urging the Government to use a forthcoming funding settlement for local authorities to plug the hole.

According to the LGA's analysis, there were 646,120 referrals to council children's services during 2016/17.

This is equivalent to 1,770 referrals a day, or one every 49 seconds.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "We will always encourage people to refer any concerns about children to their local authority as soon as possible, so that the situation can be investigated and support or immediate protection put in place where necessary.

"But while these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children's services for a number of years."

He said it is "vital" that councils have the resources necessary "to provide an effective response".

"The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts, including the £2 billion gap that councils face by 2020, have left them struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need," he said.

"The £2 billion funding gap must be addressed in the final local government finance settlement to ensure the support that families need from council child protection services is there now and in years to come."

Eleanor Briggs, head of policy at Action for Children, said: "Central government cuts to children's services budgets have been nothing short of devastating, and services that could intervene early to stop problems escalating have been among the hardest hit.

"Today's statistics from the Local Government Association show the true pressure local areas are facing."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "It is paramount that children receive the best possible care and support when they need it.

"That's why we are driving forward improvements across every area of the child protection system to identify those at risk sooner and have made more than £200 billion available to councils for local services, including children's services, up to 2019-20.

"Councils have a duty to provide appropriate care for the children in their area, including responding to referrals.

"We are supporting them to deliver efficient services by investing £200 million in the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme to test innovative ways of supporting children."

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