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Charities warn government that cuts to children’s services ‘leave thousands at risk’ | UK News

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Thousands of children across England could be at risk after deep cuts to the funding available for council children’s services, according to official figures from a group of leading charities.

The study shows that the funding available per child has fallen by a third since 2010.

The statistics – compiled by a group including Action For Children, Barnardo’s, the NSPCC and the Children’s Society – identify “kids’ cuts hotspots” across the country and reveal that councils in the capital have suffered the largest cuts.

Action For Children says eight of the top 10 councils with the biggest funding cuts are in London, with Westminster’s slashing of funding per child the worst in the country – down 52% between 2010 and 2018.

Outside London, Manchester City Council cut its available funding by 45% in the same period, while Nottingham City Council’s was down 43%.

Imran Hussain, from Action For Children, told Sky News: “These services are a lifeline for families.

“If we cut that lifeline we are going to see more families left to fend for themselves, and that means we will be less effective at spotting children who are suffering domestic abuse or neglect; we’re going to be less helpful to mothers coping with post-natal depression, and we’re not going to be able to help families struggling to put food on the table.”

Mum-of-three Kausar Hassan has certainly relied on her local council’s children’s services – looking after her three-year-old twins and their five year old brother can be a challenge as all three have learning difficulties.

But as well as speech and language classes, and post-natal sessions when all three were born, she has also been able to take advantage of Buckinghamshire County Council’s short break service.

For three hours a week, she can leave the children with trained staff while she gets jobs done or has some time off.

Many families rely on council services for their children. File pic
Image:
Many families rely on council services for their children. File pic

“It’s definitely been very beneficial for me, it’s your sanity,” she told Sky News.

“There are times when you feel ‘I’ve had enough’, so having that time just keeps you going. I don’t think I would have coped for the last five years without these services.”

She added that the classes have helped the children too.

“It’s the investment that we put in now that’s going to help them when they get into schools,” she said.

“We’ve noticed that just by having two extra half morning sessions, all our children are developing confidence with communications and social skills.”

The decreased funds come at a time of soaring demand for children’s services – the Local Government Association says the number of children in care is now at its highest since the 1980s.

Councils are legally obliged to fund statutory services like foster care, so discretionary items such as children’s centres are often in the firing line for cuts when money is tight.

Professor Tony Travers, from the school of public policy at the London School of Economics
Image:
Professor Tony Travers, from the school of public policy at the London School of Economics

Professor Tony Travers from the school of public policy at the London School of Economics, said it was not that there are necessarily more children who are vulnerable or under threat than there were 10 or 15 years ago.

He explained: “What’s almost certainly caused increased demand for children’s funding is that in the last decade and before there were some dreadful childcare failures that led to official reports – Baby Peter, famously – and as a result of that local authorities are much more cautious.

“They take children into care if necessary, and earlier, perhaps. The effort put into protecting children has simply risen substantially at a time when council funding has fallen.

“The amount available per child has inevitably dropped even more than the average.”

The Department for Education says it is making money available to councils for local services, including those for children.

The minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, told Sky News: “The government has announced £84m in evidence-based interventions, which will help to reduce demand, saving money for local authorities, as well as providing a further £270m for councils to develop improvements in their services.

“The number of local children’s services rated outstanding is growing, and the number rated inadequate has dropped by a third since 2017.”

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