Children's social care at breaking point

 New research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed that councils are facing a huge funding shortfall for children’s social care.

In 2015/16 councils overspent their children’s social care budgets by a total of £605 million to protect children at immediate risk of harm, as they struggle to meet increased demand for children’s services in the face of reduced government funding for local authorities.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, found that three quarters of councils had exceeded their budgets in the past year and that councils will face a £2 billion shortfall for children’s social care by 2020.

Together for Short Lives is calling for the government to include children’s social care in the forthcoming government green paper on social care funding. The green paper, which is a consultation document, is currently intended to cover only adult social care funding only, despite the e shortfall in children’s social care funding.

Our research found that last year council funding for charities that provide children’s palliative care – including hospice organisations – fell by 61%. For each pound that these charities spend delivering vital care and support for children and their families, they receive only a penny in funding from their local authority.

Children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their families rely heavily on lifeline social care services like short breaks (respite care), transport, counselling, equipment and home adaptations. Despite this, evidence uncovered by Together for Short Lives has found that 4 out of 5 (81%) local authorities are failing to plan and fund care for children and young people who need palliative care.

Commenting on the LGA’s report, Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives said:

“This research underlines the fact that children’s social care in England and Wales is woefully underfunded and will reach crisis point by 2020 if the government does not act.

Local councils have seen their central government funding cut year on year, despite an increase in demand for children’s social care. Sadly, this won’t be news to families who have a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, who have to battle to get social care support such as a short break.

Children’ social care services are a crucial part of a  comprehensive, joined up package of care and support for the most vulnerable children and their families – families who are caring for their children 24/7. If we are to avert further crisis then it is vital that government recognises children and their families in their forthcoming social care consultation.

Together for Short Lives is working with the LGA to produce guidance for local authorities about commissioning services for children who need palliative care. But we also need central government to play its part – without additional funding and a joined up approach to health and social care these councils will not be able to provide the support that these children and their families need." 

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