Anna’s Blog – Commit to Care
Supporting lower-income families, care-leavers, and the children’s social care system is crucial to ensuring a good and fair quality of life for all. Unfortunately, people who fall under these umbrellas have faced constant cuts to their funding, and the impact is hard to understate. Since 2010-2020, Government funding to councils for children’s services fell by 24% in real terms, and in the same period, the number of children in care grew by 23%. There are currently 82,170 children in care in England alone, which is a 21% increase since 2013.
In the last five years, 10,000 children have entered the care system and the impact on children who enter the system can be vast. Research suggests that children in care ‘have poorer outcomes in a number of areas such as educational attainment and mental and physical health’, are more likely to go missing and the children who go missing are at greater risk of physical abuse, grooming and sexual abuse according to the Government. A report from the Welsh Government also found that for children still in care at 16 ‘much of the positive impact of care itself is undone by inadequate leaving care provision.’
The annual cost of the care system is £10bn and it is crying out for reform to achieve the Government ambition to give children ‘family, love, and a safe, stable and reliable place to call home’. However, the Treasury has only allocated £200m over two years to fund this reform. In comparison, the Treasury has committed £900m in the Spring Budget for a new super computer facility to help the UK’s AI industry.
Currently, a consultation ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love: strategy and consultation’ on improving children’s social care is live on the Government website. This consultation speaks about the sterling efforts of those in children’s social care but that the system is not succeeding in providing the right help at the right point. The approach currently in place doesn’t target the area which would lead to better outcomes- the focus is on end-point care, rather than prevention and support in the initial stages. As a result of this, many children end up miles away from home and far away from the people most important to them. The proposals suggested in the consultation include: practical interventions of family finding, befriending, and mentoring programmes; creating educational opportunities for children in care and care leavers; offering better mental and physical health support. These proposals mark a key change in the focus of the Government, which we welcome, but without the appropriate funding for each of these initiatives, they will amount to not much more than lip service.
Lead by the Together Trust, we have joined with 34 other organisations to sign a letter with two simple asks: Don’t make low-income families worse off, and make a commitment to sustainable investment in the children’s social care system. We are proud to add our voice to this initiative because if the government doesn’t act, poverty will push an estimated 2,000 children into care by the time the next budget is being released.
Together Trust has suggested an alternative proposal for funding children’s social care. The Children Act Funding Formula, developed by Children England, has proposed a clearer, non-means-tested method of funding children’s social care. The formula is based on three local authority-level factors: current and projected child population; the numbers of disabled children and young carers; and multiple deprivation indices for the area. ‘Levels of poverty are strongly correlated to rates of neglect and abuse that result in children being placed in care,’ the proposal states. This means that in areas of greater deprivation, the number of children classified as ‘in need’ are likely to be highest. As the wealth divide continues to grow we will likely see even more children entering the care system. The National Audit Office reported in 2016 that ‘there has been a 94% rise in the number of children on child protection plans over the last ten years, and care applications continue to rise month on month.’ With many local authorities admitting that they are struggling to fulfil their statutory duties to children.
Children and care leavers deserve much more support. Our hope is that the Government listens and commits to care because without this, thousands of children will be the hardest hit.