Patrick Butler writes in today's Guardian that spending cuts are forcing local authorities in Britain to focus their resources on reactive, crisis intervention (such as child protection) at the expense of preventative work with children and families.
The study he describes, by the Family and Parenting Institute, also found substantial increases in demand for local authority children’s services at a time of budget restraint.
One of the eight councils in the study had experienced a 70% increase in referrals to children's social care in18 months and a 50% rise in child protection cases. Smaller, but nevertheless significant, rises were more typical. Big increases in the numbers of children taken into care contributed to the pressure to find money that the councils simply did not have.
Achieving the right balance between preventative early intervention and responding to crises is vital to the provision of effective services. We all know that under-spending on prevention can be a false economy, particularly with the very high costs that are incurred if a child has to be taken into care.
Government has to take responsibility. It is no good simply saying that cuts across the board are inevitable if all concerned know that a saving made in preventative services now will result in unavoidable increased expenditure on reactive services later. That is just hypocrisy. Public sector spending needs to be planned in a reasonable way and the consequences of cuts in one service need to be assessed for their impact on other services. Otherwise the inevitable result is that services decline while at the same time the expected savings are not made. That is an outcome that no sensible person could support.