Friday, 22 March 2019

Vulnerable children deserve better - the parlous state of children’s social care in England

An unequivocal report from the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons pulls no punches.

The Committee’s Chair sums it up, concluding that:

“Government’s progress with reforming children’s services has been painfully slow and it has still not made clear what sustainable improvements it hopes to achieve. Children, many of them in desperate circumstances, deserve better.”

The report notes the following:

·     The Department for Education, which is responsible for children’s services in England, does not possess a comprehensive assessment of the sustainability or resource needs of children’s social care services
·     The sector is not financially sustainable with 91% of local authorities exceeding their budgets for spending on children's services in 2017-18
·     The Department for Education cannot explain the significant variation between local authorities in the activity and cost of children’s social care and it does not have an adequate understanding of demand pressures
·     The increasing use, and high cost, of residential care puts local authorities under extreme financial pressure
·     There is a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of early interventions in children’s social care
·     The Department has not set out what overall improvement it is seeking in children’s social care by 2022
·     There is little evidence of strong cross-government collaboration in improving children’s social care

Criticisms don’t come much more damning than those! The report chimes with so much of what we have been hearing from other sources over the years which, sadly, our government seems only to happy to ignore. Ministers' complacency has been staggering.

The Committee’s report should be a watershed. Now that MPs have joined the chorus calling for vulnerable children to receive the services they need and deserve, rather than some third rate inadequate and declining alternative, ministers must act and act decisively. It is simply not good enough trotting out the usual excuses about spending a pittance on so-called innovation and other distractions. Urgent action is required to properly fund children’s services now and in the future.