Children’s services have reached crisis point and need at least £3.1bn additional funding over the next five years, an influential committee of MPs has warned.
In its report, Funding of Local Authority Children’s Services, the Commons housing, communities and local government committee also calls for the government to commit in advance of the spending review to continuing the Troubled Families programme beyond 2020. It said many councils were reliant on Troubled Families funding for non-statutory early help services.
It called for an increase in the day-rate for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and said ministers should introduce similar funding for children whose families have no recourse to public funds.
In response to complaints about the amount of children’s services funding that comes through individual funding pots which councils must bid for, the MPs said government should take a more strategic cross departmental approach to one-off funding.
They also recommended the Competition & Markets Authority should investigate the market for children’s care placements in response to rising costs and that the government should consider central investment to increase supply of places.
Committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) said: “Over the last decade we have seen a steady increase in the number of children needing support, whilst at the same time funding has failed to keep up.
“It is clear that this approach cannot be sustained, and the government must make serious financial and systemic changes to support local authorities in helping vulnerable children.
“They must understand why demand is increasing and whether it can be reduced. They must ensure that the funding formula actually allows local authorities to meet the obligations for supporting children that the government places on them.
“We have reached a crisis point and action is needed now.”
The call for £3.1bn is in line with the Local Government Association’s estimate of the funding gap by 2025. According to the LGA, in 2017-18 133 out of 152 councils recorded a total overspend of £806m on children’s services.
A government spokesman pointed to the additional funding announced by the chancellor at the Budget in October. This comprised £410m which can be sent on adults or children’s social care and £84m over the next five years to support innovation in children’s services.
They added: “The number of children’s services rated outstanding is growing, and the number rated inadequate has dropped by a third since 2017 – from 30 down to 20. To help continue this trend we are raising the bar in our social work profession, by focusing on improved training and recruitment.”