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The focus on adult social care crisis and not children runs a risk

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LGC’s essential daily briefing.

Seeing the words “social care crisis” splashed across the front pages of national newspapers and topping TV bulletins was unthinkable just a few years ago, but now there is rarely a week that goes by without the issue being highlighted in one form or another.

Managing to explain the pressures in adult social care services to make the issue relevant to not just the wider media but the public too has been no mean feat by the sector and its partners.

What a shame then that Theresa May’s botched attempt during the general election campaign to radically reform the way adult social care is funded appears to have turned it into a topic too toxic to be dealt with by a government seemingly fighting for its life each day.

But LGC’s exclusive analysis of local government spending shows a problem of similar magnitude has been largely missed.

With proportionally far greater overspending in children’s social care than in adult care in each of the past three years it points to another pressing issue for the sector.

The trouble with children’s social care is there is, at present, no precept councils can raise; nor is there a £2bn bung from ministers to help plug the financial gaps.

This, LGC is told, is now the issue more than any other that is keeping council chief executives and leaders awake at night.

That’s not to diminish the very serious problems affecting adult social care, of course – problems that could get worse if the health secretary has his way.

Today the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has revealed councils have been receiving fines worth more than £280,000 for delayed transfers of care.

Punishing those who are struggling the most is counterproductive, according to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers. LGC reports today that Solace has warned Jeremy Hunt’s threat to take control of social care funding from councils considered to not be sufficiently reducing delayed transfers of care could have “dire” consequences for vulnerable people.

While councils missing their targets have now received letters from Mr Hunt, Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) has told LGC the government will not remove social care funding this financial year.

According to Lord Porter, communities secretary Sajid Javid played “quite a strong card” with Mr Hunt to convince him to not follow through with his threats, this year at least.

That will come as a relief to many but this threat will continue to loom large over the sector, and fears over funding for a few underperformers could yet overshadow wider problems with social care affecting many.

So while much of the focus has been (and continues to be) on the fragile future of adult social care services, the same attention has not been lavished on children’s.

Yet you only have to look at scandals such as the one in Rotherham to see the risks attached when children are not given the attention they want, need and deserve.

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