Councils could find it “impossible” to protect child protection services from spending cuts, MPs have warned.
A report from the education select committee says councils have made “strenuous efforts” to shelter the services. However, it says, “we are concerned that this position might prove difficult, if not impossible, to maintain as authorities are forced to find further savings in future years.”
It calls on the government to monitor the impact of the spending cuts on child safeguarding, warning that some councils may have “covertly” raised thresholds for intervening in families or taking children into care because of budget cuts.
It said the committee had “no hard evidence” of this, but that there were fears that in future “local authorities may be forced down this path.”
“While the range of additional services on offer may be reduced in the current climate, we do not believe that it would be acceptable to anyone, including local authorities, not to offer protection to abused children because of budget constraints”, the report said.
The committee also called for a strong role for central government, saying the Department for Education should “be given overall responsibility for the welfare of all children.”
The government should to be “prepared to act” to “ensure that local authorities respond promptly in cases of neglect”, it said. It called on Ofsted to extend its inspections to cover the quality of services for older children.
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services welcomed the report but said it addressed “complex areas with no easy answers”.