Government cuts to early intervention services are storing up problems that will filter through to children’s social care in the next two years, Action for Children warned today.
Carol Iddon, the charity’s acting managing director, told Community Care that while councils have so far managed to stop families in difficulty from escalating up to social care the reduced availability of early support means it is only a matter of time before these families require help from social workers.
“The implications of these cuts are that we stop doing early intervention, those families continue to struggle, the problems become more acute and therefore the demands on the acute services becomes higher,” she said. “They are simply stacking up problems for later.
“I think councils and providers like ourselves have worked very hard to minimise the impact but as the cuts get deeper and deeper there is only so much that we can actually do. So whilst we’re not actually seeing families getting into acute states yet we will start to see that in the next year or two years.”
Iddon’s comments coincided with the publication of a report by Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau and the Children’s Society that says central government funding for early intervention services in England will have dropped 71% by 2020.
The Losing in the Long Run report says there was a £1.8bn real-terms reduction in government support for local authority early help services between 2010/11 and 2015/16. It predicts funding will fall another 29%, or £520m, by the end of April 2020.
Services that have been hit by these cuts include children’s centres, short breaks services, family support, teenage pregnancy advice and youth work.
The report also questioned more than 500 local councillors about early intervention support and found 87% regarded it to be a high priority although 59% believed it will be impossible to maintain services at their current level given the budget squeeze.
The charities’ report says central government should give councils with the highest need extra money to support early intervention services. It also says councils should prioritize money they raise from increased business rates to fund early help services.