Digest: Thresholds for intervention to protect vulnerable children have risen and there is evidence suggesting financial pressures are responsible, new research suggests.
A survey of 1,600 social workers by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children found most believed thresholds had risen in the last three years across all levels of intervention, including for taking children into care.
A report published today shows 70% of those surveyed believed thresholds had risen for a child qualifying as “in need” because their health and development is at risk.
Half reported that thresholds had risen for making a child the subject of a child protection plan or applying for a care order as they are at risk of neglect or abuse.
Two-thirds of social workers said early help thresholds had risen.
Finances available to children’s services influenced decisions on early help or support for children in need, according to 60% of respondents, while 45% said this was a factor in care orders and 33% to child protection plans.
APPG chair Tim Loughton (Con) called for the findings to be urgently addressed by ministers and warned there is a risk of “perfect storm” caused by rising demand for support at a time when children’s departments are being required to restructure due to criticisms from Ofsted.
He added: “There is now a very real fear that intervention for an increasing number of children is being determined not by vulnerability and threat of harm but by finances and availability of support.”
NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang said the survey provided further evidence that children’s social care is becoming an “emergency service”.