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New report: Flawed support for most vulnerable children creating time bomb for society

15 October 2012

A new report by Action for Children reveals how fundamental flaws in the funding of vital children's services are creating a ticking time bomb for both vulnerable children and UK taxpayers.

The Red Book report is our annual investigation into the real impact of the recession and Government spending decisions on over 46,000 children whom we support in 150 communities across the UK.

The Red Book 2012, published today, highlights that two out of three of the most vulnerable families are struggling with more severe issues than a year ago. 

Yet in April just 12 per cent of the planned public spending cuts had taken place - and with dramatic welfare reforms still to be implemented, Action for Children is warning that the situation is only going to get worse.

51 per cent of surveyed staff are reporting increasing demand, which means already-stretched services are being forced to focus on crisis intervention rather than more cost effective preventative measures.

Services' capacities to make a lasting difference to children and families' lives are being further compromised by short-term funding, with 91 per cent operating on contracts that will not outlast the current Spending Review (May 2015).

Action for Children's Chief Executive, Dame Clare Tickell, said, "The Red Book 2012 highlights problems that, while new to individual children and families, have persisted for decades. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb that has the potential for both human and financial repercussions. 

"We welcome the coalition government's commitment to early intervention but the current system of short-term, quick-fix funding is simply exacerbating existing need and instability, creating a false economy that could cost society more than £1.3 billion a year.

"As changes to welfare, unemployment and the recession look set to continue, we desperately need a shift from short-term thinking to long-term strategies that put children first and short-term politics second."

To prevent problems escalating for vulnerable children and their families, and a subsequent rise in child protection and care costs, we are calling for the three major parties to work together to:

  • introduce a statutory duty upon local authorities to provide sufficient early intervention services in their local area
  • commit to alternative and long-term funding arrangements for local children's services, providing the security needed to achieve better outcomes and a shift to early intervention

Dame Clare continued, "We need local services that have the flexibility to deliver the early intervention that's so urgently needed in communities right now. Simple changes to the way the current system is funded are critical if we're to have any hope of protecting future generations of children."

To find out more about the report and read the stories of the twelve families we have been working with throughout our year-long research, please visit The Red Book 2012 webpage.