Published Monday 12 March 2018 at 12:10
Twenty north west local government leaders responsible for children’s social care have signed a letter to the Chancellor warning they need more money to tackle a growing crisis in the sector.
Executive and Cabinet Members from Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bury, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cumbria, Halton, Knowsley, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Sefton, St Helens, Stockport, Tameside, Warrington and Wirral have sent a cross-party letter to Phillip Hammond pointing out that:
- There are more than 13,000 Looked After Children, a 20 year high, and the greatest number of children in care of any region in England
- There has been a rise of 12% since 2013 alone, which is double the 6% increase in the rest of the country
- There has been a £45m increase in expenditure on residential care placements this year alone
- There were 90,930 referrals in 2016/17, driven by increases in domestic abuse and mental health issues
Councillor Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Children’s Services, said the effects of austerity continue to hurt those most in need – causing the numbers of children and families needing help to rise to unprecedented levels.
Cllr Bateson said:
This level of need and demand for services from our most vulnerable children and families has never been seen before.
Since the Government took office, there has been a steady reduction in early intervention services for children. Family support services have been cut to the bone and children’s centres have been shutting at a rate of six per month in the UK and the situation is unsustainable and putting vulnerable young people at risk.
It’s time the Government listened to councils across the region all warning of the same risk with young people’s lives by not acting now.
Councillor Barry Kushner, lead member for the north west on the Children’s Services Network of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said:
There is a growing crisis in children’s social care in the north west and councils are struggling to cope.
We know that the sustainable solution to reducing children’s social care is early intervention and stopping problems becoming crises. But the increasing costs of children’s social care is driving our limited resources away from funding early help. This is not good for families because we can only intervene when a situation has escalated out of control, or for society as we often end up taking children into care, which is far more costly and damages their life chances.
It is not just us saying this, it is part of a national picture illustrated in the “Turning the Tide” report produced by Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau and the Children’s Society.
As the Finance Bill makes its way through Parliament, we are asking the Government to respond to the crisis of children’s social care, and provide adequate funding to meet these needs.