Children’s services spending slashed in half, charities warn

By William Eichler | 15 July 2021

Council spending on crucial services that help stop children reaching crisis point has halved over the last decade, new research has revealed.

A report published by UK children’s charities revealed that between 2010 and 2020 local authorities in England reduced spending on early intervention services from £3.6bn to £1.8bn.

It is estimated that since 2010 a thousand children's centres and 750 youth centres have been forced to close.

The research, carried out by Pro Bono Economics, estimated that government funding available to councils for children’s services fell by 24% from £9.9bn to £7.5bn in real terms between 2010-11 and 2019-20.

Charities that commissioned the research – Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, National Children’s Bureau and NSPCC – warned that local authorities were stuck in a ‘vicious circle’.

A lack of funding means councils are forced to cut services, which means they are more reliant on expensive crisis interventions and care placements.

The research showed overall spending on all children’s services between 2010 and 2020 fell by £325m despite a 4% increase in the number of young people across the country.

Late intervention spending surged between 2010 and 2020 - from £5.7bn to £7.6bn, a 34% increase.

Chief executive of The Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said: ‘Behind the figures showing increased numbers going into care and becoming subject to child protection measures are heart-breaking stories of children facing sometimes horrific risks inside and outside the home, including neglect, abuse and exploitation.

‘There is a real risk the situation will get even worse following successive lockdowns, which have increased vulnerability among many children and young people and exposed them to new dangers.’

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, added: ‘An approach centred on firefighting crises is not a strategy that protects children.’

And corporate director of development and innovation at Barnardo’s, Michelle Lee-Izu, said: ‘Too many vulnerable children are having to reach crisis point before they can access support.'

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