The children’s commissioner for England has said children’s services face a “step in to the unknown” as they try to manage budget responsibilities while improving services.
Anne Longfield told MPs at an evidence session for Parliament’s education committee that children’s services were subject to “an immense change”.
“It’s a change in the nature of those services, but also being done at a time when there is immense pressure, limitation on budgets, and also [a] real increase in demand too,” Longfield said.
She added: “I think that the pressures on local authorities to look at how they continue to deliver services and improve their services against the budget requirements they have are simply a step into the unknown for them at the moment.”
How best practice around innovation is shared should be looked at, Longfield said, and there should also be a stocktake on the effect that pressure on children’s services has had on children. She said she would write to the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, about this.
The 90-minute evidence session, which looked at how Longfield intends to meet the commitments of her ‘Ambitious for Children’ document, published last year, covered a wide range of topics, including early intervention, social work recruitment and innovation, children in care, Staying Put, child sexual exploitation and the government’s child protection taskforce, set up in June last year.
Her main comments in the session included:
- Children in care: (9.57): She described the pressures around the care system and children in care as “intense”, but she thinks there is a fighting chance to meet her ambitions for children in care, which include leaving care support being extended to the age of 25.
- Innovation (10.00): Longfield said the innovation programme was showing good results and should be built on by the government.
- Staying Put (10.10): She had been told there are inconsistencies with how local authorities are delivering Staying Put.
- Child protection taskforce (10.44): She said that child sexual exploitation is likely to still be the top priority of the cross-ministerial taskforce.
- Early intervention (10.49): Longfield said there needed to be a “look in the mirror” about what isn’t done in early intervention. She also said there needed to be practical steps taken to help local authorities that want to realign services into early intervention, such as a “transition fund”.