Children’s services provide a lifeline to thousands of vulnerable children and families in our area and across the country. However, local authorities have experienced unprecedented cuts to funding since 2010 and analysis by Action for Children and other key children’s charities has shown that funding available for children’s services has fallen by a third per child in England.
The Local Government Association (LGA) notes that councils have worked hard to protect budgets for essential child protection services, but funding pressures have led to difficult decisions elsewhere, leaving children and young people unable to access support until they reach breaking point.
The Chancellor’s small funding increase for children’s social care, announced at the Budget in October, is a short-term sticking plaster which comes nowhere near to addressing the national emergency facing children’s services.
I am alarmed by the LGA’s findings that children’s services still face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020, rising to a £3 billion shortfall by 2025. The pressures facing children’s services are rapidly becoming unsustainable, with a combination of government funding cuts and huge increases in demand leaving many areas struggling to cope.
At the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to secure sustainable future funding for local government. It pledged to refocus social care to work with families in local communities to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care. It also committed to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy and pledged to invest in early intervention by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people.
The current Government says it will consider long-term children’s services funding as part of the Spending Review later this year. However, I believe it should have acted at the recent Spring Statement to immediately plug the funding deficit in children’s services.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to urge the Government to provide proper funding – as a matter of urgency – for children’s services across the country.