There are some critical issues for the next government to address in children’s social care.
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Children’s services and schools are facing unprecedented financial and demand pressures. At the same time rising numbers of children and families are living in poverty. We are seeing greater use of food banks and higher rates of homelessness. Many of the services once in place to help children and families earlier, before problems escalated, have been scaled back or have disappeared altogether as a result of the government’s austerity policy.
We are living in a country where many families cannot afford the most basic things including food, clothes and even sanitary products. A recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hunger and Food Poverty found an estimated three million children risk being hungry in the school holidays, of which two million are from working families. That you could be in work and still struggle to feed your family is difficult to imagine. Sadly, this is the reality for many.
A growing number of schools are running breakfast clubs in the holidays to prevent their pupils from going without these most basic things, despite facing significant funding pressures of their own. There is a growing evidence base showing how the implementation of the national funding formula will leave many schools with less funding. The Institute for Fiscal Studies recently published a report showing there will be significant winners and losers as a result these reforms. This will have real implications on children’s outcomes.
We have the opportunity to create a country that really works for children and families. In years to come when we look back at this moment I hope that we are able to say the decisions made today secured the very best outcomes for children and young people.
Alison Michalska, president, Association of Directors of Children’s Services 2017-18, and corporate director of children and adults, Nottingham City Council