The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government has assured plans for funding children’s services for the future, following reports projecting cuts to the same by councils all over England.
“We are currently finalising local government funding arrangements for the next two years, striking a balance between relieving growing pressure on local government whilst ensuring that taxpayers do not face excessive bills,” a spokesperson from the department told Voice of Westminster. “Councils will see a real term increase over the next two years in resources, more freedom and fairness and with a greater certainty to plan and secure value for money.”
Earlier today, an analysis of council funding across England by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that more than half of the country’s councils plan to cut funding for children’s services to counter budgeting issues and overspending. The plans include closing children’s centers, decreased support for disabled children, and compromised child protection schemes.
The downsizing is being attributed to the costs of supporting vulnerable children, which are proving too high for the government to meet. The report also projects that nine of 10 councils across all will cross their budget thresholds by March 2018, one of them by almost £14m. Nearly all of the 57 councils out of 101 analysed are already over budget for numerous services this year.
The figures come on the heels of another survey conducted by the Local Government Information Unit, which reported alarming rises in the number of councils concerned about finding money to put into children’s services. This year, nearly a third (31.8 per cent) of councils put the availability of funds for children’s services as their biggest concern, as opposed to 7 per cent last year.
The findings of the report were criticized by Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Housing, Communities, and Local Government: “Unless the government finally listens to the demands of councillors, parents and politicians of all parties, and makes a change of direction, then more vulnerable children will go without the care that they need, and councils will be pushed dangerously close to the financial brink.”
Gwynne also took to Twitter to criticize Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
An excellent in-depth analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism into the financial crisis facing local government across England.
— Andrew Gwynne MP (@GwynneMP) February 8, 2018
The DHCLG, however, expressed confidence in the government’s current investments in helping troubled families and children. “The Government has invested over £200 million since 2014 in the Innovation Programme and Partners in Practice Programme, as well as £920 million in the Troubled Families Programme, to help the children’s social care sector innovate and re-design service delivery to achieve higher quality, improve family outcomes and secure better value for money.
“We also recognise the good work that local authorities do in caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. That’s why we’ve made £19m available to local authorities in 2017/18 from within existing budgets, including the Controlling Migration Fund, to develop the skills and capacity to be able to support these very vulnerable children,” the spokesperson told VoW.
Subbed by – Lia Chabane