Children’s Social Services have been bitten hard by government imposed financial cuts since 2010. Politically-chosen austerity has led to poor children and families moving from deprivation to destitution, and the help they might have received has been stripped away. The consequence is more concerns about the safety and welfare of children, leading to a 159% increase in child protection investigations since 2008 and the number of children in council care rising from 60,000 to more than 75,000.
The Local Government Association predicts that by 2020 there will be a £2bn funding gap just to maintain children’s services at what is already a threadbare patchwork quilt shredded by years of cuts. Central government grants to local government have halved over the past eight years. The government intends this trend to continue, despite children’s services budgets already overspending by £800m a year. Services are shrinking but still overspending while the funding pot is being repeatedly squeezed.
But there is another dimension to the Children’s Social Services crisis. The Pot is not only being squeezed. It is leaking. What had been a trickle of public funding for children’s services being taken as profits by private companies is now a steady stream.