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DfE has 'growing recognition' of children's funding pressure

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There is a “growing recognition” within the Department for Education of funding pressures on children’s social care services, the chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board has said.

During a discussion on the Budget at a meeting of the LGA executive yesterday, Islington LBC leader Richard Watts (Lab) said children’s social care funding was becoming the most serious challenge facing local government and criticised the government for ignoring calls for more resources.

He said: “There is growing recognition within DfE that there is a problem but that has not got as far as the Treasury.

“There is a lot of work to do to gather the data we have been told we need to make the case [for further funding].”

In response to the Budget, the LGA warned that rising demand and an estimated £2bn funding gap in children’s services by 2020 was threatening vital support services.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has said funding pressures are forcing councils to cut early intervention services which prevent children being placed on protection plans and taken into care.

Cllr Watts said work had begun to gather evidence on the impact of dwindling resources but predicted the government will soon be forced to intervene to protect vulnerable children and families.

He added: “It is not just that there is a problem now, the challenges are going to get worse not better.

“If the government does not respond this year, it is going to have to respond next year and it is going to cost a lot more money.”

The government pledged £20m to increase capacity for sector-led improvement in children’s social care in October.

But ADCS president Alison Michalska warned the money would not prevent some councils failing and a case for further funding must be made that fits with the “Treasury mentality”.

LGA Conservative group leader David Simmonds told the meeting the government’s approach to local government funding was setting up councils to be the “fall guys of failure”.

He said: “I have concluded there is a view among some in Parliament that the solution to a lot of the financial pressures is to remove caps [on increasing council tax].

“I am not convinced that we want a solution that is government to say to the NHS ‘tell your councils to put up council tax and we get a bit of it.”

The LGA has said councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap in just two years.

Sevenoaks leader Peter Fleming (Con) told the meeting there must be an honest debate with residents over the increasing proportion of funding being spent on a small minority of people who require adult and children social care services.

He said: “[The government] does not care about local government, we are an adjunct to what they are.

“We are a delivery arm of what they want us to do – it is a broken system.”

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