Growing crisis for children’s social care

As the cabinet leads for children’s services in the north-west of England we are urging the chancellor to allocate the additional funds we need to address the growing crisis in children’s social care. The demand and complexity of cases is increasing, creating overspends in our children’s services budgets, at the same time that our council budgets are being reduced. This is an unsustainable financial demand for each of our councils.

In the north-west there are now more than 13,000 looked-after children. This represents a 20-year high and is the greatest number of children in care of any region in England. This has been driven by growth of 12% since 2013 alone, double the 6% increase in the rest of the country. Analysis from the Placements Northwest census identifies sharp escalation in costs, for example a £45m increase in expenditure on residential care placements this year. We have recorded 90,930 referrals in 2016-17, which is an increase of 2% on the previous year. Our data suggests that this is being driven by the increase in domestic abuse and mental ill health.

We know that the sustainable solution to reducing children’s social care is early intervention. But the increasing cost of children’s social care is driving our limited resources away from funding early help. This is consistent with the national picture that is 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.