Saturday, 4 August 2018

Northamptonshire … and the rest

With English local councils such as Northamptonshire and East Sussex succumbing to the long-term impact of austerity and embarking on savage cuts and major reductions in their services, it is only right for England’s Children Commissioner, Anne Longfield, to issue a dire warning about the impact of sustained shortfalls in funding on the extent and quality of services to vulnerable children. 

A key part of her analysis is that available funds are being increasingly concentrated on children with extremely high needs, leaving little for anyone else. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that approximately 50% of spending on children’s services in England is devoted to the 70,000 children who are in care and a further 30% goes to children for whom there is a child protection plan. That leaves only 20% for preventative work and early intervention. And now authorities like Northamptonshire are struggling to maintain even the core work. In short, they are teetering on the cliff edge.

Ministers appear bizarrely sanguine about this dire state of affairs. They have been told for years that the rising workload of children’s services combined with austerity funding is a recipe of eventual meltdown. And they have just sat there and done very little.