Children’s Services

Delivering children’s services has become one of the biggest budgetary issues facing county local authorities over the last few years, with demand continually outstripping current funding levels. In 2023, acute rises in demand, coupled with a ‘broken’ provider care market, meant that children’s services was the biggest contributor to many councils overspending their budgets.

County authorities’ children’s services are regarded as amongst the best in the country, from family support to children in direct care, helping to ensure that no child falls through the gaps and those who need support get the very best. Additionally, they have a proven track record in disseminating and targeting support from the Supporting Families programme.

However, the financial pressures facing counties has forced more of a focus on crisis care. The Councils Network has highlighted that that during the last decade preventative children’s services have experienced a disproportionate reduction in spend by councils as finances were squeezed during austerity, with county leaders acknowledging that this will simply store up problems for the future but with little room to make alternative choices.

Emerging from the Coronavirus lockdown, county authorities have witnessed an increase in referrals (up by 15%) and new support requests coming through, particularly in mental health and family support.  CCN research showed that there was a spike in demand for children’s services after the first lockdown, and it will be important that any further demand later down in the line is adequately funded, alongside support for emerging issues, such as mental health. 

The government has committed to an independent review into children’s services, which concluded in 2022. The government’s reforms package, Stable Homes, Built on Love was unveiled a year later but whilst it has an increased focus on prevention the funding committed falls well short of what councils and the independent review argued for.

Looking ahead, the CCN will argue for further reforms to the system, particularly around the residential provider market, as well as sustainable funding.

Children's Services - Key Asks

Prioritise investment in children’s services in 2024 and beyond, recognising that this is now the fastest growing pressure facing local government.

The residential provider market in children’s services must be reformed, with councils’ voice at the heart of this.

Funding must follow any future children’s services reform

Increase investment in family support services drawing on the growing bank of evidence and science-based approaches which ensure the ‘best start for every child’ in their earliest years.

Expanding the Supporting Families programme so it can adequately help those people who are coming into the system with new requests for support as a result of the virus, such as mental health.

Latest News on Children's Services

Latest Publications

Timelines: County Council Policies
Announcement Date: 03/02/2020