Across the country, a range of difficulties have beset the Children’s Social Care system. These difficulties have come together to create nothing short of a recipe for disaster for local councils trying to protect vulnerable children.
Locally, Warrington Borough Council is struggling in the face of rising demands on Children’s Social Care, and 8 years of severe budget cuts.
Levels of child poverty and material deprivation are rising across the UK. Many working families are now unable to claim working tax credits, and others have been forced into debt as housing allowances no longer cover rent.
As a roll out area for Universal Credit, these issues are especially prominent in Warrington.
Across the town, the total number of children in need has risen by 17% from 2014/15 to 2017/18.
And more children in need means more pressure on the services designed to support them, all against a backdrop of huge Government cuts to council budgets.
In the decade following 2010, Warrington Borough Council will have been forced to make over £160 million in savings.
In Children’s Social Care, officers have little choice but to reduce spending on ‘early intervention’ services, in order to maintain spending on the statutory later intervention services that the council has a duty to provide.
However, as more early intervention services are lost, the needs of a growing number of young people and children remain unmet and become more complex and demanding. As a result of this the pressure on our already stretched statutory services has dramatically increased.
In Warrington, our officers are working tirelessly to make the best of an incredibly difficult situation.
They have turned around low levels of recruitment. And they have employed innovative regional solutions to go some way to meet the increased demand for foster carers.
But if we want to see real change, the main ingredient we need to tackle the issue is funding.
The Local Government Authority predicts a shortfall in Children’s Social Care funding of £3 billion by 2025.
This gap in funding must be plugged now, and not by local councils, but by central Government.
We have a moral obligation to provide vulnerable children and young people with the support that they need. It is high time that Government ministers stopped burying their heads in the sand on this issue and took the urgent action that is needed.
I will be listening closely to the upcoming Autumn Budget and I hope to see the Government use this opportunity to stabilise the crisis in Children’s Social Care in Warrington South, and across the UK.