Local authorities are approaching ‘the limits of their capacity’ as child safeguarding pressures continue to rise, directors of children’s services have warned.
Figures published this week by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) show pressure on already-stretched child safeguarding services is increasing.
Approximately 2.3m initial contacts were made to children’s social care in 2013-14, representing a 12% increase on the previous year and a 65% rise since 2007-08.
As part of its research into the pressures councils face when safeguarding children, the ADCS also found an 11% increase in referrals to children’s social care and a reported 13.8% increase in children and young people becoming subjects of an initial child protection plan.
Substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental health issues were identified as factors in around three quarters of initial assessments carried out by children’s social workers in 2013-14. Domestic abuse was a presenting factor of safeguarding activity in 94% of instances.
Over 75% of responding authorities said that the demands from adolescents were changing as the numbers at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) rose. There was also growing demand on the use of welfare secure or specialist residential care and finding looked after adolescents appropriate placements.
The data was collected from the Department for Education and 102 local authorities.
ADCS president Alan Wood cited budget cuts as a possible reason for the rising demand before issuing a clear warning about the level of risk to children. He said the system is, “approaching the limits of [its] capacity to continue to absorb such pressures”.
“Funding reductions in other areas of council business including adult social care, libraries and benefits coupled with those seen in other public agencies, especially the police, are now having a clear impact on the preventative offer and children’s social care services.”
Difficulties retaining staff and managing over 400 different initiatives, strategies and changes to legislation or guidance affecting children and young people in the past 21 years were also highlighted as heaping pressure on councils.