Revolving Door

We are concerned that opportunities to intervene early are being missed. Some children are stuck in a revolving door into social care, in a cycle of referral and assessment, but only receiving help at crisis point.

Vital family support services for problems like domestic violence provide help that can stop problems spiralling out of control, and prevent the need for statutory services later on.  However, years of austerity and budget cuts mean that often, these essential support services are no longer available.

We examined whether children who are vulnerable but don’t meet the criteria for statutory support, were directed to early help services that could help them and their families.

Read our report

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What did we find?

In 2015-16, there were 184,500 children referred to children’s social care whose cases were closed as ‘no further action’ after assessment.

Only one in four children were referred to early help services such as children’s centres or domestic violence programmes

This leaves an estimated 140,000 children on the fringes of social care without support.

Although these children do not reach statutory thresholds, they are still vulnerable.

We found that common needs are domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, parental mental health and substance misuse. 

Not only can living with these problems make a child’s life miserable, but even at a low level, neglect can affect all aspects of children’s development and the relationships they make throughout their lives.

Ongoing budget cuts have made it increasingly difficult for local authorities to provide early help services, especially in a context of increasing need in families.

When it is time to make tough decisions about a shrinking budget, it can be difficult to prioritise early help support.

The impact of this is clear: children’s centres have shut at a rate of around six per month since January 2010.

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What needs to happen?

We are calling on the Government to strengthen the statutory framework for early help services and provide adequate funding to local authorities so they can provide help as soon as children need it.

Read the full report