Transforming children's services inquiry launched
28 January 2019
Between 2010/11 and 2017/18, there was a 7% rise in the number of children who were referred to local authorities because of concerns about their welfare.
There has also been a 15% increase in the number taken into care – despite only one third of local authorities saying they have enough access to residential homes for children aged 14-15. In 2017/18, this meant that more than 655,000 children were referred to social care. This increase comes in spite of the fact that local authorities are carried out 77% more child protection assessments in the time period.
A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report has found that local authorities expect to spend £4.2 billion on children in care in 2018-19, which is £350 million more than they budgeted for in 2017/18. Nine out of ten local authorities overspent on their children's social care in 2017/18, which amounted to £872m overspend nationally.
While the report highlights that activity and cost of children's services vary significantly between different local authorities (from £566 to £5,166 per child), it also found that there is no link between spending per child in need and the quality of services (as measured by Ofsted). Some services were rated as “Good” by Ofsted with a spend of £570 per head, while other received the same rating by spending £4,890.
The Department for Education has a target of giving all vulnerable children access to high quality support by 2022. However, the NAO has reported that the Department does not understand what is causing either a) the increased demand, narrowly focusing its previous estimates on population growth, nor b) the wide variation between local authorities.
Following on from its 2016 Child Protection Services report which drew similar conclusions around rising demand and variation between authorities, the Public Accounts Committee will question officials from the Department for Education and the Government's Chief Social Worker for Children and Families on 4 February about the current pressures on children's social care. Examining the Department's understanding of demand and local variation, the Committee will investigate how it plans to achieve its programme of reform by 2022.
Deadline for written submissions is 1 February 2019. You can submit evidence through the transforming children's services inquiry page.