Children’s social care is a postcode lottery

By Nuffield Foundation

A recent parliamentary report, which heavily cites Nuffield-funded research, reveals how spending cuts have pushed children’s social care into crisis across the UK. 

In February, Professor Paul Bywaters, Professor Briigd Featherstone and Professor Kate Morris provided evidence for the All- Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Inquiry into the variations in social care thresholds for children throughout the UK. 

The evidence presented by Professor Paul Bywaters suggests that resources are playing a part in variation in access to children’s social care support across the country. Local authorities in deprived areas are more likely to face greater demand for services, experience larger increases in their child population overall and, therefore, have fewer resources to spend on meeting children’s needs. 

Bywaters also told the Inquiry that cuts to funding had lead to a ‘radical shift’ in the balance of services provided by children’s social care. In 2010, roughly half (46 per cent) of children’s services budgets were spent on family support and prevention while the other half (54 per cent) was spent on safeguarding work and children in care. Today, the balance has shifted so that just under a third is spent on family support and prevention while the remaining 71 per cent goes on safeguarding and children in care.

Bywaters argued that this reduction in preventive, support services for families has ‘major implications’ for trust between parents and the state, and for the children involved. In its report published by the National Children’s Bureau last week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children noted that this shift away from preventative services is “pushing services down a slippery slope where the only option is to take more children into care”. 

Drawing on this evidence, the report’s recommendations include a call for the government address the gap in funding children’s social care services and to provide a statutory ‘safety net’ for children’s society care services. 

The report powerfully demonstrates the chronic underfunding of local authorities, particularly those with the most disadvantaged communities.”

Professor Paul Bywaters

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