Councils fear a rise in vulnerable children needing support due to the lockdown

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2020 | 22 May 2020

Councils fear a rise in vulnerable children and ‘troubled families’ needing support as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown, but today warn they could struggle to cope with surge in demand due to existing funding shortfalls and additional costs of the pandemic.

New analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) reveals that core government funding for children’s services reduced by 35% – some £354m – since 2015/16. These reductions are higher than any other part of the country and came at the same time the costs of providing these services increased £600m over the same period.

 

Click here to download the new report: ‘Recovering from Coronavirus: Children’s Services Funding and Early Intervention’.

To read the data on which some of this report’s figures are based on, click here to download a more in-depth analysis on children’s services funding reductions since 2015.

On top of funding reductions before the outbreak councils are having to contend with the increased costs of Coronavirus, with the 36 county authorities in CCN membership initially estimating a further £132m of costs will added to their children’s social care budgets this year.

The CCN says that a ‘perfect storm’ of lower budgets, rising demand and fewer preventative services to support young people could have a long-term impact on their ability to support vulnerable children and troubled families.

They are calling on the government to cover all additional costs faced by councils in their children’s services departments as a result of the pandemic, ‘safeguard’ existing funding for troubled families and set out long-term sustainable funding for children’s services in this year’s planned Spending Review.

Councils are concerned that there are a number of children who need support – including those subject to abuse and neglect – currently going unchecked because of the lockdown. With restrictions now beginning to ease, those authorities are worried about a spike in children and families needing support due to a range of issues emerging from the crisis, and those who going under councils’ radars due to the lockdown.

Issues such as financial hardship, lost schooling, loss of support networks, increased domestic abuse, dealing with deaths from the disease, and families relocating are all problems that could emerge due to Coronavirus – including many families who have not previously needed support.

As a result of the funding reductions councils have had to scale back many of the very services these families will need such as Sure Start, youth centres and learning support. Today’s analysis shows spending on preventative and early intervention services by county authorities dropped by £172m since 2015/16.

CCN is calling for the government cover all additional costs faced by councils in their children’s services departments as a result of the pandemic – both now and in the immediate aftermath, including the increased costs of delivering support whilst fulfilling government guidelines, such as social distancing.

The network is also calling on the government to bring forward the £165m from its flagship Troubled Families Programme to support families now to help councils prepare for the inevitable demand as the lockdown eases.

Currently, the programme pays some money retrospectively, based on ‘payment-by-results’, for meeting key outcomes such as school attendance or supporting adults into employment. Covid-19 means that many targets are now impossible to meet and councils fear they will not be able to access this vital source of funding to help the most vulnerable.

Officers argue that if the money is not accessible this may force services that are maintained in part by the payments, such as some children’s centres, to close. Councils say this could lead to a vicious spiral of more children coming into the care system down the line – especially with Coronavirus putting councils under further extreme financial pressure.

Cllr Keith Glazier, County Councils Network spokesperson for children and young people, said:

“Young people will not stop being neglected or abused during Coronavirus so we sadly expect a rise in cases once lockdown ends, especially with the emotional and economic impact of the virus on families. It is vital that we put in place robust plans to support all of the vulnerable children and families who will have seen a dramatic change in their circumstances during this unprecedented period.

“However, with reductions in funding, rising demand and preventative services being reduced, children’s services face a perfect storm as we emerge from lockdown.

“Preventative and early intervention services will help families back to their feet, so the government must help councils now to ensure that money for Troubled Families is available now to scale up family support services, rather than have these funds trapped at central level due to the pause on bureaucratic form-filling, alongside additional funding for Coronavirus-related costs.

This crisis hastens for the spending review to set out a long term sustainable funding settlement for children’s services and work with councils to reform services so they are focused on prevention, rather than crisis management.”

Notes to editor

  • The methodology on funding reductions in paragraph two are explained on page 4 of the full report
  • TOTAL FUNDING FOR CHILDREN’S SOCIAL CARE including GRANT FUNDING 2015/6-2019/20 (£/m)
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 £-/+ %-/+
CCN 989.13 853,327 733.16 653.34 634.29 -354.29 -35.82%
Unitary (non CCN) 586.44 527,167 472.94 439.62 430.48 -155.96 -26.59%
Met District 904.65 818,320 744.93 702.22 673.55 -231.10 -25.55%
Inner London 375.59 349,075 322.55 305.27 304.15 -71.44 -19.01%
Outer London 417.66 378,741 341.10 316.34 323.24 -94.42 -22.61%