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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Councils struggling to cope with mounting demand for children's services, survey

Written by Alison Kershaw

Town halls are struggling to meet the needs of children in their area, a charity has warned.

Many authorities are facing an increased demand for children's services, such as supporting those in care and providing facilities for families, according to a poll by the National Children's Bureau (NCB).

It found that a significant proportion of councillors believe that increased levels of poverty and deprivation are leading to a rise in demand, while others think that cuts to other services, such as housing, are playing a part.

The poll questioned around 100 councillors in England who take the lead on children's services for their authority.

The findings show that 87% of those polled said that demand for children's services has generally increased in the last two years.

Of these, 50% suggested it was down to higher levels of poverty or hardship, while 45% highlighted cuts to other resources for families, such as support with housing or youth services.

Around a third (36%) said the rise was due to greater awareness among professionals of signs of abuse and neglect.

The survey also found that 60% believe that their council has enough funding to meet its legal obligations to children in care, while 62% say they have enough money to meet their commitments to youngsters who are under child protection plans.

But just under one in four (24%) agreed there was enough funding to provide universal services, such as children's centres, to meet families' needs.

NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang, said: "It's becoming increasingly clear that across England local authorities are struggling to meet the needs of children and young people, including those at considerable risk.

"We should be stepping in to help these children as early as possible, but with two-thirds of lead members saying they have insufficient resources to provide universal services, prevention and early help are falling by the wayside, as councils are forced to prioritise funds for those closest to crisis.

"Strikingly, half of lead members responsible for children's services linked growing pressure on services with poverty, illustrating the impact of deprivation on children."

The Survation poll questioned 101 councillors in England between October 2 and 23.

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