Council-reported incidents of child harm increased by nearly a fifth over the last year, prompting calls for more funding for children’s services.
The Local Government Association (LGA) found there were 536 notifications of child-related serious incidents during 2020/2021. This is a 19% increase from 2019/2020
Child death related notices also increased by 19%.
The LGA is now calling for more funding for children’s social care in the next spending review to help protect children.
“Extra pressure on families”
The LGA is worried that abuse and neglect were more likely to go unnoticed during the year’s lockdowns, and expressed concern pressure from the pandemic could increase the risk to children’s safety.
Youngest children are the most at risk, with 36% of the incidents reported in 2020/21 relating to children under the age of one.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
Supporting and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important roles played by councils who want to ensure all children are safe, loved and thrive, so this rise in serious incident notifications is particularly harrowing and a huge cause for concern.
The pandemic has put extra pressure on families, particularly those living in difficult circumstances, which can fuel harmful acts of abuse or neglect on children.
Councils have been working hard with their partners to identify this and provide the help children need, but it is vital that children’s social care services are funded to meet this need.
In 2019/2020, the demand for safeguarding services saw councils across the UK overspend on children’s social care budgets by £832m. This is despite councils diverting £1.1bn to children’s services over the last two years.
The LGA now wants central government to invest in children’s social care so councils can provide early and preventative services to families.
Early intervention funding has been cut over the last decade. The LGA report that the Early Intervention Grant to councils has been slashed by £1.7bn since 2010.
According to Action for Children, many councils cannot afford to pay for early intervention services.
The group further found that spending on children’s services dropped by 9% in the north of England from 2010/11 to 2018/19, compared to 3% in the south. This has led to a north-south divide in funding children’s services.
Action for Children estimated in 2020 that failing to give children’s services extra funding could lead to a £3bn funding gap by 2025.
At the end of 2020, Action for Children and Barnardo’s warned that children’s services were at “breaking point”.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said at the time:
We have long warned about the ‘perfect storm’ in children’s social care. In every community children face growing challenges, from knife crime and gangs, to cyber-bullying and online grooming, to a crisis in mental health.
It’s even harder for families struggling to make ends meet. And in many areas the services they once relied on just aren’t there anymore.
As a result, far too often families are reaching crisis point – with rising numbers of children being taken into local authority care. At Barnardo’s we see the impact of this failure to step in early. Children are suffering from trauma, affecting their education, health and happiness, with lifelong impact.
Featured image via pixabay/jatocreate
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