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ADCS president warns of children's services 'fraying shoestring'

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The government must act to throw the “juggernaut” of rising demand and funding pressures on children’s social care services “into reverse” before the system becomes “wholly reactive”, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said.

Speaking at the ADCS conference yesterday, Alison Michalska warned that preventative services had been severely reduced in some places, creating deeper pressures on an under-resourced system.

She added that this was compounded by the fact that a third of the child population live in poverty, with many in working households.

Ms Michalska said: “We should support and supplement families’ endeavours, especially when parenting difficulties are compounded by poverty and deprivation, rather than pathologising their needs for early help.

“The most effective way of doing so is to prioritise and therefore resource universalist, preventative children’s services.

“We do need government to work with us to throw the juggernaut into reverse before our children’s services become wholly reactive, specialist, blue light services funded on a fraying shoestring.”

Exclusive LGC research published this week found pressure on children’s social care budgets is increasing drastically with spending outstripping budgets by close to £1bn over the past three years.

Senior local government figures warned cuts to non-statutory services such as early intervention were leading to children entering the care system later with more complex and expensive needs.

Ms Michalska said the government’s ‘touching faith’ in structure as a means of improving outcomes for children was not one ADCS members share.

She added: “The structuralist pursuit of creating trusts, and other arm’s length bodies of various descriptions - social enterprises, staff mutuals and in fact multi-academy trusts - brings an accountability buffer between service users and those accountable for ensuring services are provided.”

Ms Michalska also said ADCS had been raising concerns with the Department for Education over the 30,000 children who are schooled at home in England.

She said some schools use home education as a means of “off-rolling” pupils who are unlikely to achieve good grades, while other parents use it as a cover for sending their children to illegal unregistered schools.

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