The service quality for children’s social care is “bleak”, a report by a leading education policy think tank has said.
The evidence review by the Education Policy Institute of children’s social care said the outlook for children’s services was “concerning” given the impact of “years of local overspend and insecurity in the workforce”.
It pointed to Ofsted inspections which found 64% of local authority children’s services in England were ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ under the single inspection framework which ran until December 2017.
It said in a context where child poverty was projected to increase “the strains on the system are unlikely to decrease without significant additional spending”.
“To maintain statutory services, local authorities have balanced a fall in local spending power since 2010 with cuts to early support services combined with the use of budget reserves,” the report said.
Burnout a significant problem
Workforce data indicates that burnout is a “significant problem” in children’s social work, and the heavy reliance on agency workers in some areas could be “problematic”.
“Social worker change has been linked to a loss of trust among children in need,” the report said.
It said late intervention and statutory services had “weathered” funding cuts so far, but early intervention had not, despite “solid evidence” in its effectiveness.
Report author and senior researcher at the Education Policy Institute Whitney Crenna-Jennings said the capacity of local authorities to offer preventative services had been “compromised” by financial constraints.
“Along with instability in the workforce, it is likely that these problems could result in adverse effects on both the short- and long-term outcomes of those in contact with social care,” she said.
“To safeguard the future of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children in England, the government should ensure that local authorities are able to draw on sufficient resources, so that more preventative services can be delivered.”