Frequently asked questions about cuts to children's services

Good childhood campaign frequently asked questions

What is the crisis in funding for children’s social care?

Since 2010, the Government has significantly reduced the local authority funding available to deliver children’s services (otherwise known as children’s social care). Local councils have to make tough choices at a time when more teenagers have more need. It is now estimated that by 2020 there will be a £2 billion black hole in local Government budget for children’s services.

The Children’s Society is deeply concerned because we know from our own specialist services and our research that these Government cuts to social services hit the most vulnerable teenagers hardest.

How do government cuts to local authority funding harm teenagers?

Teenagers with serious problems mounting up in their lives desperately need the support provided through local authority spending on local children’s services. These services give them someone to talk to and help them get their lives back on track.

We know that cuts to early help services have been some of the most severe. With less early help available when they need it, teenagers’ lives can and do get much worse. They can end up suffering more harm, they may resort to running away, drugs or self-harm. In the most extreme cases teenagers have seven or more serious problems harming their well-being. Sadly, there are one million teenagers in this damaging situation and it leaves them scared, unsafe and unable to thrive.

How can the shortfall caused by cuts to local Government funding cuts be addressed?

The Government must take urgent action to fill the emerging £2 billion gap in local government budget for children’s services. Local councils urgently need this funding to make sure they can help teenagers long before they hit crisis point. With more local funding for young people, even the most vulnerable teenagers can overcome the serious problems in their lives and have a real chance at a safe and stable childhood.

What is meant by local children's services?

Local children's services (otherwise known as children’s social care) are run by the local council in your area. These services include a wide range of essential support that help teenagers in many different aspects of their lives early long before problems get worse.

They undertake investigations when they think a child is at risk of harm, or if they think a child’s development is at risk. They are responsible for children in care and young people leaving care until they are 25. They arrange counselling so teenagers have someone to talk to when they’re scared and overwhelmed by the many difficult problems in their lives. They work intensively with families to work through their problems and help them get their lives back on track. They provide youth services such as youth clubs giving teenagers a safe space. Local councils are required to provide some services by law but because of Government cuts they’re finding it increasingly difficult to even provide these.

Are other local agencies involved in making sure teenagers have local support affected?

There are several other local agencies involved in supporting teenagers in your area - like the police, schools and the NHS. The funding for these services is separate and not directly affected by central Government grants to local authorities for children’s services. The law requires that these local agencies work together to give teenagers the best, most coordinated support.

As local authorities struggle financially, it’s likely that the other local agencies will have to do more - eating into their limited resources. The most effective support is delivered in a coordinated way, making sure the views of the most vulnerable teenagers are considered at all times.

Is this the same as the Local Government Association’s call for the £2 billion gap in funding for local children's services to be filled?

In 2017 the Local Government Association identified that Government cuts to local authorities mean children’s social care budgets will be £2 billion short by 2020. We are deeply concerned because we know from our own specialist services and our research that these local authority cuts hit the most vulnerable teenagers hardest.

Local authority funding cuts to early help services are some of the most severe reducing by 70% between 2010 and 2020. We can’t accept seeing vital services stripped back while serious problems are mounting up in teenagers’ lives. The Children’s Society wholeheartedly backs the Local Government Association’s call for the £2 billion funding shortfall to be addressed.

Can the Government afford to deliver more local government funding for young people?

The Government cannot afford not to. Life is really hard for lots of teenagers and their families at the moment. The local authority spending we’re talking about is good value for money in the long-term. Rising numbers of teenagers in this country are in need of help - there are more children are in the care of local authorities than ever before. Many will have missed out on early help when they first started struggling.

At this early point local children’s services could put arrangements in place to prevent things from getting worse. They can work intensively in partnership with families to get their lives back on track. When teenagers don’t get help early, we know that the impact of cuts on social care is their lives can and do get worse.

Without help because of local government budget cuts, teenagers may resort to running away, drugs or self-harm as they struggle to cope alone. When they hit crisis, teenagers need intensive crisis help from the local council, which is much more costly. By choosing to help teenagers early, the Government will make savings in the long-run. This is an investment that must be prioritised.

What can you do?

Right now, an alarming one million teenagers have seven or more serious problems in their lives - from violence at home to threat of eviction. A decade of drastic Government cuts to local authorities’ funding for local children’s services means too often they’re forced to struggle alone. We want to protect the most vulnerable teenagers from fear, to protect them from danger.

We want to help them thrive and enjoy childhood. With help when they need it, even the most vulnerable teenagers can have a real chance at a safe and stable childhood.

The Government must make sure that local authorities can help teenagers who need it long before they hit crisis point. We have been asking for more funding for local children’s services, but we need your help. 

 

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