Children must be protected from the “burning injustice” of growing poverty and “sceptics in the Treasury” must be challenged on the ongoing efficiency drive, according to the new president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
In his inaugural speech yesterday, East Sussex CC director of children’s services Stuart Gallimore said an increasing number of struggling families are seeking support and described the existence of foodbanks as “a stain on our society”.
He said it is wrong that parental wealth remains the best predictor of a child’s future and said poverty had created “new glass ceilings… in addition to the old glass ceilings that never were quite shattered”.
Mr Gallimore said: “That is why we need to focus relentlessly in local and central government, in charities and in communities, on creating the setting conditions for a country that works for all children.
“This necessitates a wide lens view of social policy, an integrated approach that seeks to ameliorate the impacts of poor housing, family poverty, insecure work, social isolation and mental ill-health.”
He said continuing to make the case for proper resourcing of children’s social care services would be his top priority and said “sceptics in the Treasury” are wrong to believe there are efficiencies to be made because some councils spend less than others and achieve the same or better outcomes.
The Local Government Association has estimated a £2bn funding gap in children’s services by 2020.
Mr Gallimore said: “In councils like my own, which have long been high performing and financially efficient, there’s simply no fat left to trim - there are no more efficiencies to be made.
“Instead, authorities up and down the land have found themselves having to cut back on early help services, children’s centres and youth provision often in the face of strong local opposition and at a time when many families are on the receiving end of cuts to wider public services, and frankly make no financial sense to cut.”
He cited a series of figures to back his case for further government investment.
These included a projected 56% rise in child protection plans between 2010 and 2022, as well as a 20% increase in children in care over the same period.
He called for a review of legislation that places a responsibility on councils to transport children to school, which cost £1bn in 2015-16.
Mr Gallimore also said there should be closer monitoring of home-schooling and tighter regulation of non-mainstream schools which “can expose them to increased risks of radicalisation, sexual and other forms of criminal exploitation”.
“Statutory school-aged children should go to a registered school – every day during term time,” he added.
The government earlier this month abandoned plans to introduce an inspection regime for these schools and create new powers to impose sanctions where failings were identified.
Mr Gallimore also pledged to “make a lot of noise” about the “parlous state” of the provision of secure units across the country.