A surge in challenges faced by children and families in an era of austerity has resulted in a demand for help in children’s services, according to new research. The report released last month – Safeguarding Pressures – was the sixth phase of the study and had the highest ever response rate from 140 of the 152 local authorities in England, covering 11.3 million (95%) children and young people under 18.

In an attempt to better understand safeguarding activity and support for vulnerable young people, the report focused on four particular areas:

  1. What changes are local authorities experiencing concerning early help and safeguarding activity and do we know what the reasons for these are?
  2. What is the impact of factors outside of the direct influence of the local authority?
  3. Can we track the changes in funding and workforce for children’s services and what the effects have been?
  4. What are the other current and potential challenges and enablers for children’s services?

Key findings of the report

Through qualitative and quantitative data spanning over a ten-year period (from 2007/8 to 2017/18), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) could evaluate the changes in demand for, and provision of, children’s social care.

According to the new data, as of 31st March 2018:

  • Twice as many children became subjects of a child protection plan due to neglect compared with data from a decade ago.
  • The number of children put in care has increased by 24% over the last ten years; a total of 75,480.
  • Approximately 644,430 Child in Need assessments were completed, and over 170,000 assessments included domestic abuse as a factor.

It found that families and children, as well as local authorities, are facing challenges that are getting harder and more complex for the current model of children’s services to tackle fully.

ACDS President, Stuart Gallimore, blames austerity for this increased pressure, saying that it ultimately affects the whole family and not just the breadwinners.

Gallimore stated: “When adult need is left unmet, due to the lack of support services available to them, it is difficult for us to make a sustained difference in the lives of children, our focus must be on tackling the root causes of these issues not simply the symptoms.”

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