Financial pressures on children’s services are forcing thresholds for care to rise, the National Children’s Bureau has warned.
NCB carried out a survey in conjunction with BASW for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children which found that 70 per cent of social workers say thresholds for children’s services have risen over the last three years.
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “This is further evidence that children’s social care is becoming an emergency service, as councils struggle to meet their statutory duties to vulnerable children with dwindling resources and rising need.
The survey of 1,600 social workers carried out for the APPGC as they launch an inquiry into care thresholds found that children have to reach a higher level of need before qualifying for help. The survey found:
- 70% said the threshold for qualifying as a ‘child in need’ had risen over the last three years.
- Two-thirds said that thresholds for receiving early help had generally risen in the last three years.
- Half said thresholds had risen for making children the subject of a child protection plan and
- 54 per cent said the same about applying for a care order.
Sixty per cent of social workers said that the finances available to children’s services influenced decisions about whether to offer early help ‘very much’ or ‘to a great extent’.
Tim Loughton, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, said: “There is now a very real fear that intervention for an increasing number of children is being determined not by vulnerability and threat of harm but by finances and availability of support. As we know from bitter experience that is a false economy, both financially and socially, which can have a lasting impact on a child’s life chances.
“We risk entering a perfect storm where rising numbers of children in need, increasingly stretched social workers and a growing number of children’s services departments coming up wanting in inspections and having to focus on restructure, will inevitably mean more vulnerable children are unable to get the attention they need at the early stage when it can have the greatest impact,” he added.
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, concluded: “Central government must act now, so that struggling families and children get the help when they need it, not just when they’re in immediate danger of harm. We also urge the government to think bigger and consider how changes to health, welfare and housing policy can create the right conditions for children to thrive.”