Children's services referrals close to 650000 in 2017
Hundreds of thousands of young people were referred to children's services in 2017, according to officials. The number is so high it's equivalent to one referral every 49 seconds, the Local Government Association warned. Social workers are trying to investigate concerns and keep children safe, but councils need more money to cope with demand, the LGA said.
Local children's services will face a GBP2 billion funding gap by 2020, it warned, urging the Government to use a forthcoming funding settlement for local authorities to plug the hole. There were 646,120 referrals to council children's services during 2016/17, the LGA's analysis revealed - that's 1,770 referrals a day, or one every 49 seconds. "We will always encourage people to refer any concerns about children to their local authority as soon as possible, so that the situation can be investigated and support or immediate protection put in place where necessary," Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said.
"But while these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children's services for a number of years." He said it is "vital" that councils have the resources necessary "to provide an effective response". "The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts, including the GBP2 billion gap that councils face by 2020, have left them struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need," he said.
"The GBP2 billion funding gap must be addressed in the final local government finance settlement to ensure the support that families need from council child protection services is there now and in years to come." A Department for Education spokesman said: "It is paramount that children receive the best possible care and support when they need it. "That's why we are driving forward improvements across every area of the child protection system to identify those at risk sooner and have made more than GBP200 billion available to councils for local services, including children's services, up to 2019-20.
"Councils have a duty to provide appropriate care for the children in their area, including responding to referrals.
"We are supporting them to deliver efficient services by investing GBP200 million in the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme to test innovative ways of supporting children."