Ministers pressed for £3.1bn funding boost to save children's services at 'crisis point'
Ministers must plug the funding gap to save children’s services currently at “crisis point”, a group of influential MPs has demanded.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee is pressing for a minimum of £3.1 billion core funding to be handed to local authorities up until 2025 as the number of children in care has risen every year for the last decade.
In a report published today, the committee also called for ministers to address the high turnover of social workers and care staff “as a matter of urgency”.
Between 2008 and 2018, the number of looked after children rose from 59,400 to 75,420, but the MPs said funding has "failed to keep up".
Committee chair Clive Betts said: “Supporting vulnerable children is one of the most important duties that local authorities provide.
“Over the last decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of children needing support, whilst at the same time funding has failed to keep up.
“It is clear that this approach cannot be sustained, and the Government must make serious financial and systemic changes to support local authorities in helping vulnerable children.
“They must understand why demand is increasing and whether it can be reduced. They must ensure that the funding formula actually allows local authorities to meet the obligations for supporting children that the Government places on them.
“We have reached a crisis point and action is needed now.”
Alongside the £3.1 billion of non-ringfenced funding, the committee is pressing for the Government to announce a follow-up plan to the Troubled Families Programme running until 2020, to give local authorities certainty in their long-term funding.
The group of cross-party MPs also flagged a “high reliance” of local authorities on the independent sector for providing children’s residential care, and that costs are increasing for an "unclear" reason.
They called for an investigation into the market and for a review of commissioning and procurement system to take place by December 2019.
A Government spokesperson said: "Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family where they feel supported. We must help parents who face difficulties, to strengthen their family relationships so they can properly support their children.
“That is why we’re putting an extra £410 million into social care this year, including children’s – alongside £84 million over the next five years to keep more children at home with their families safely, helping reduce the demand on services.
“The number of children’s services rated outstanding is growing, and the number rated inadequate has dropped by a third since 2017 – from 30 down to 20. To help continue this trend we are raising the bar in our social work profession, by focusing on improved training and recruitment.”