Wednesday 13 September 2023
Mother and son laughing together in a garden

New analysis from a coalition of leading children’s charities shows years of funding cuts have left council budgets buckling under soaring Children’s Social Care costs

Local authorities, under financial duress, have spent years dialling back on early preventative services, which are instrumental in halting crises before they amplify.

For 2021-22, local authorities in England increased their spending on children’s services by £800 million. However, early intervention services are in decline, witnessing a startling 45% drop in the last 12 years.

£4 in every £5 (81%) of the recent spending increase was funnelled into crisis intervention services, driven by spiralling numbers of children in residential care. This is a rise from the 67% seen a decade ago.

This research shows once again how central government spending cuts are trapping cash-strapped councils in a "doom loop”, as their costs of children in care spiral and prevention services have to be slashed.

We need to rebalance children’s services so councils have the capacity to intervene earlier, support parents, protect children and keeps costs down.

Read the report

What we found

The key findings from the report, conducted by Pro Bono Economics and commissioned by leading children's charities, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC:

  • In 2021-2022 there has been a £800mn increase in children’s services spending in England (unprecedented 8% rise on previous year).
  • Children’s services spending absorbed 25% of all local government spending power, up from 18% in 2010-11.
  • £4 in every £5 of additional spending going on late intervention services in 2021-22.
  • Increase in residential care is biggest driver of late intervention spending*.
  • Since 2010-11, care services expenditure has increased by £2.2bn (61% increase).
  • In 2021-22, there was additional care services expenditure of £500m (22% of the 61% increase occurred in 2021-22 alone).

*Residential Care

  • Since 2010-11, number of children in residential care has increased 79%.
  • Since 2010-11, spending on residential care has increased 63%.
  • 90% of this additional spend has gone to the private sector.
  • Local government spending on for-profit provision has more than doubled since 2010/11.