Stopping the spiral
Analysis from a coalition of leading children’s charities reveals deep cuts to early intervention children’s services, while the number of children entering care continues to rise
Demand for children’s services is increasing. In May, the final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care warned that if current trends continue, 100,000 children could be in care by 2032, with costs to stretched councils rising by nearly 50% to £15 billion.
These financial pressures are putting local authorities in an impossible position. Required to meet their statutory duties to provide social care services, many local authorities are forced to cut preventative services like children’s centres and family support, that can help reduce the number of children that need to go into care.
Since 2017/18, a coalition of leading children’s charities comprising Action for Children, Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, and The Children’s Society have published an annual report outlining cuts to early intervention children’s services and highlighting the spiralling costs that result from more children needing to enter care.
Spending by local authorities on early intervention services for children and young people fell by £1.9 billion between 2010-11 and 2020-21, down from £3.8 billion This means that by 2020-21 80% of all local authority spending on children and young people went on late intervention services, up from 58% in 2010-11.
For every £1 spent on late intervention services, councils spent £0.23 on prevention
There has been a 24% rise in the number of children in care, to almost 80,000, which costs an extra £1.3 billion per year. Pressure on the system has meant the real cost per looked after child has increased by 11% between 2012 and 2020.
Breaking the cycle of spiralling costs of care requires targeted investment in early intervention services. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care has called for a “radical reset” of the system. This reset would aim to shift provision away from crisis management and towards early intervention services that begin in the community. The review suggests that achieving this will require £2.6 billion of investment over four years, and a strong focus on intensive services to support families in crisis, aimed at providing support to at-risk children as early as possible.