17 Nov 2017
  • Charities warn ‘crippling’ central government saving targets have left councils with no option but to close services designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse early.
  • New joint report from three leading children’s charities reveals councils’ shift to increased crisis intervention for children and families, ‘firefighting’ problems after they have escalated.
  • With continued austerity and future local government funding in limbo, charities call on central government to honour its pledge to give children the best start in life and provide urgent additional cash for councils.

Demand for crisis support for children is rising sharply as councils slash preventative services under the pressure of £2.4bn of central government funding cuts, warns a new report released today (Wednesday 15 November) by three leading children’s charities.

Council spending on early help services¹ that are designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse early has fallen by 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2015/16, while crisis support has risen by 7 per cent to £6.1bn, according to the Turning the Tide report from The Children’s Society, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau.

In contrast to central government funding cuts, councils have cut their own spending on children’s services by slightly less, £1.6bn over five years. At the same time, there has been a 108 per cent increase in child protection investigations, as demand for council help soars.

The research also found that the most deprived councils in England have cut spending on children’s services by almost a quarter (23 per cent), six times as much as the least deprived councils. Reductions in central government grants since 2010 have resulted in greater cuts to deprived councils’ spending power, hitting children in the poorest communities hardest.

Children’s and youth centres, teenage pregnancy support, short breaks for disabled children, information and advice for young people and family support are some of the services that are affected by the cuts to early intervention. Between 2010/11 and 2015/16 central government funding for early intervention services fell by £1.7 billion across England, the report reveals.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'Central government cuts to children’s services budgets have been nothing short of devastating, and services that could intervene early to stop problems escalating have been the hardest hit. Whilst more and more children are reaching crisis point, local authorities have found themselves less and less able to respond.

'All too often central government shrugs off responsibility for council spending decisions but the figures are stark and undeniable: councils are being denied the funding they need to provide safe, effective children’s services and spending on vital support is collapsing as a result. We are at a tipping point with more cuts yet to come. The government must step up and give councils the funds they need to protect our children.'

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive at Action for Children, said: 'Crippling central government funding cuts have left local authorities with no option but to close early help services designed to spot signs of abuse and neglect and move to a ‘crisis’ fire-fighting model.

'Leaving local authorities without the necessary resources to help children and families at an early stage has a devastating cost, both in social and financial terms.

'With no long-term solution on the table, children’s services are on an unstable and dangerous footing. We’re calling on the government to prioritise the services children need before this crisis turns into a catastrophe for the next generation of children and families.'

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau, adds: 'There is a relentless squeeze on funding for children's services and councils are seeing their budgets dwindle at an alarming rate. Do we really want a system that can only help children and young people at immediate risk of harm, but can't step in to help families before problems deteriorate? 

'We need urgent investment to alleviate the mounting pressure on children's services, and a commitment from Government that all children should get the right support at the right time.'


Notes to editors

¹  Early intervention has long been valued by councils as a means to help prevent problems escalating to a point where children and young people require more costly interventions, such as being taken into care. From parenting classes to substance misuse prevention, programmes and the local services which deliver them form a key part of councils’ support for local communities.