It would be dangerously irresponsible to have an NHS with only A&E departments but no GPs, no cancer screening services and no public health education – yet this kind of short-sightedness is what we’re facing in children’s services.
The past decade has been tough for children’s services. Under-investment has meant that local authorities have had to make tough choices about what support they can offer children and their families. But now, as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, we’re concerned there could be a surge in demand for support for vulnerable children, at a time when children’s services were already facing a funding crisis.
An ever-growing funding gap
To help raise these concerns, the biggest children’s charities supporting vulnerable children in the country have come together to release a joint report on children’s services funding.
Our analysis highlights how available funding for children’s services has fallen £2.2bn since 2010/11. We found that as spending on services that can help children’s lives from reaching crisis-point has fallen by nearly half over the last decade, local authorities have had to increase spending on late intervention services by 29%. Coupled with the fact that spending on looked-after children has increased by 40% since 2010, a picture is emerging that suggests vulnerable children are having to wait for their lives to spiral into crisis before getting much-needed support.
There’s also clearly a North-South divide when it comes to falls in funding. Local authorities in North of England have seen a cut of 27% to their funding compared to 23% in the Midlands and 21% in the South of England. What’s particularly concerning is that deprived areas have seen their funding fall twice as fast as the least deprived areas at a time when demand has increased. Between 2010 and 2019 the most deprived local authorities have seen the number of children in need rise 12,670 (17%) compared to a rise of 2,740 (4%) amongst the least deprived local authorities.
Ultimately, our major worry is that during this pandemic, many of the places that can help identify children who might need support – such as children’s centres and schools – are closed due to the lockdown. We think it’s likely that we’ll see a surge in the needs of vulnerable children as we emerge from this crisis – but as our report highlights, children’s services may be ill-prepared to cope with these extra challenges after a decade of reduced investment.
As such we’re campaigning for increased investment from government in this year’s spending review – and you can help. We’re asking people like you to contact their MP to raise this issue - so that more politicians have the information they need to take action: https://e-activist.com/page/60873/action/1?ea.tracking.id=blog
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