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. Consequently, many local authorities have overspent on their children’s services budgets over the last few years.
This is to ensure that no child falls through the gaps and those who need support get the very best. County authorities’ children’s services are regarded as amongst the best in the country, from family support to children in direct care. 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, that is expected to gather evidence well into 2022 before making its final report. CCN will be engaging in this review to ensure that the county perspective is fully reflected.