Council leaders have called for reform of the children’s social care system as research shows spending to provide support to vulnerable children has increased by almost a quarter in five years.
The latest figures, published by the Local Government Association (LGA), showed that councils in England spent more than £10.5bn on children’s social care in 2020-21 – nearly a quarter higher than in 2016-17, when expenditure was almost £8.5bn.
Figures also showed that more than two-thirds of councils are being forced to overspend to keep up with rising demand to support vulnerable children.
Councils overspent by more than £800m in the year 2020-21 despite councils increasing their budgets by £708m that year and by £1bn in the past two years.
In the past decade, the number of Section 47 enquiries - carried out when councils have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or at risk of significant harm - has increased from 111,700 in 2011 to 198,790 in 2021 – a rise of 78%.
The number of children in care in England has increased from 65,510 in 2011 to 80,850 in 2021 – a 23% rise.
Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Anntoinette Bramble, said: ‘Children’s social care services have been stuck in crisis mode for too long.
'Spiralling costs and increased demand means that funding is largely supporting those in most urgent need of help.’