Unless we act we will store up problems for future generations.The Chancellor can help in next month’s budget by re-investing in universal credit and ending the cruel freeze on working age benefits.” Robert Goodwill, the minister for children and families, said: “Every single child should receive the same high quality care, support and protection, no matter where they live.His immediate £350m boost may stave off a crisis this winter.
In 2015 we made more than £200bn available to local authorities for services up to 2019-20, and local authorities increased spending on children and young people’s services to over £9bn in 2015-16.
“In addition to this, we are investing £200m in our Innovation Programme so councils and others have support to trial ways to reform services to be more effective.
Confirming the increase in levels of need, nearly nine in 10 said demand for local authority support for children and families has risen over the past two years.
When asked what their top three priorities for spending would be if their annual budget increased by 10 per cent, more than half said they would target the money at early support for families, while half would prioritise children in care and nearly a quarter would improve support for children with mental health problems.
In light of the latest findings, Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that across England local authorities are struggling to meet the needs of children and young people, including those at considerable risk.
“We should be stepping in to help these children as early as possible, but with two-thirds of lead members saying they have insufficient resources to provide universal services, prevention and early help are falling by the wayside, as councils are forced to prioritise funds for those closest to crisis.
A survey carried out by the National Children’s Bureau reveals two-thirds of local councillors responsible for children’s services said their local authority lacked the resources to provide universal services like children’s centres and youth clubs.
More than four in 10, meanwhile, said they did not have enough money to meet one or more of their statutory duties to children.
Three-quarters of English councils exceeded their budgets for children’s services last year, totalling a £605m overspend, while the number of young people subject to child protection enquires increased by 140 per cent – to 170,000 – in the past decade, according to analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA).
Council leaders warned at the time that funding cuts have pushed children’s social services to “breaking point” with action only being taken to protect youngsters once they are at imminent risk of harm.
It comes after it emerged that the roll-out of universal credit, a new benefits system aimed at making the system simpler to administer, was causing “acute financial difficulty” for families across the UK.