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Children’s services suffering from local cuts, charities warn

22 September 2023

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EARLY-intervention children’s services are suffering as a result of years of funding cuts, an alliance of charities has warned.

New analysis, commissioned by a group comprising the Children’s Society, the National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, Action for Children, and Barnardo’s, suggests that funding for early-intervention services has fallen by 46 per cent in the past 12 years.

The report, compiled by Pro Bono Economics and released on Thursday of last week, notes that there was an increase in local-authority spending on children’s services of eight per cent last year; but 81 per cent of the extra funding was put into late-intervention measures.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, expressed concern that the onus was on “emergency responses when situations worsen” rather than on “proactive support” that sought to prevent issues’ arising. “This isn’t just about funding; it’s also about timely, effective care,” he said.

Mr Russell’s views were echoed by the heads of the other charities in the Children’s Services Funding Alliance.

The chief executive of Action for Children, Paul Carberry, described the funding model as a “doom loop” imposed by central-government cuts, which ended up increasing the need for funds, because late-intervention measures were less cost-effective.

His analysis was echoed by the chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, Anna Feuchtwang, who said: “We must greatly expand help that prevents families from reaching crisis point in the first place. This will not only prevent harm to children, but protect local authority budgets from the soaring costs of taking a child into care.”

The Labour Councillor for Shirley, in Southampton, Alex Winning, also commented on the report: “I firmly believe that the more you are able to invest in early intervention, the less you will spend overall on late intervention. The current system needs a radical reform from top to bottom and not just ‘patching up’ as I believe the Government have been doing,” he said.

The full report can be read on the Children’s Society website.

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