The number of children on child protecton plans in England has risen by 8% since last year, while the number of children in care has gone up by 2%. The rises confirm fears that councils are facing a perfect storm of rising costs for children at risk and slashed budgets.
Statistics from the Department for Education show that, although there has been only a 1.5% increase in the number of referrals to children’s services, this has translated into a jump in the number of those on child protection plans and core assessments. However, just over 13% of children were on a plan for a second or more time, the same as last year.
The number of children in need has also increased slightly, although recent data on council budgets in England this year showed that funding for family support and children in need is set to drop this coming year.
Directors of children’s services said the figures illustrated the increasing pressure on departments.
Matt Dunkley, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The rise in care proceedings and the number of those proceedings resulting in children coming into care suggests that these children are in very real need of protection, and that the increase reflects previously unmet need, rather than a change in the thresholds for accepting a child onto the children’s social care caseload.”
He said most local authorities had decided to protect child protection services in recent budget cuts but it was forcing cuts in other areas such as preventative and early intervention services that would help reduce these numbers in the future.
“Child protection and services for looked after children are looking for ways to do more with less, but in these straightened financial circumstances these efforts are simply allowing local authorities to maintain current levels and volume of services – coupled with rising demand, the available resources may well not go far enough.”
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