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Comment: ADCS submission to the CSR 2020

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Thursday 24 September, publishes its submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review, outlining the clear moral and economic imperative for the Treasury to put children at the heart of its spending plans.

Since 2010, funding for local authorities has halved but need has not. Councils have worked hard to manage demand and protect the most vulnerable, but they have been left with no other option but to perversely cut the very services that enable us to intervene early before crisis hits. This is a false economy and is storing up huge financial and human costs for the future.

Local authorities are legally required to set a balanced budget, but the totality of funding allocated by central government is simply not enough: funding has not kept pace with demand. Covid-19 has further increased the cost pressures on councils and while emergency funding from government has helped, this is no substitute for a long term financial settlement that benefits all children, one that critically enables us to sustain and stabilise the services already in place while also investing to meet the unprecedented level of demand we anticipate over the coming years. The government’s current piecemeal approach to funding is not conducive to this nor is it equitable, there are several small pots of funding for some councils to trial different ways of working. Over recent years, councils have developed robust evidence of approaches that work to meet the needs of children and families and reduce demand, government now needs to fund the national roll out of these so all councils, and ultimately children, can benefit.

ADCS members have identified four priorities for investment over the period of the Spending Review: prevention, SEND, care, and education. Beyond funding, a series of national policy reforms are needed to unlock significant savings which could be reinvested into children’s services. This includes a review of outdated legislation underpinning home to school transport which sees councils spend over £1 billion per year on transporting children to and from school, reforming the SEND reforms to ensure that, where appropriate, children are educated in mainstream settings and as close to home as possible, removing the ability for significant profits to be generated from the care of vulnerable children and ensuring the best use of the funding available for the National Citizenship Service.

Jenny Coles, ADCS President, said: “Before the pandemic, there was not enough money in the system to meet the level of need in our communities, Covid-19 has further illuminated and significantly exacerbated that inadequate baseline of funding. We are seeing newly vulnerable families who we’ve never worked with coming to our attention because of issues such as domestic abuse, neglect and financial hardship, and escalating levels of need amongst those who were already facing challenges. The end of the furlough scheme in October and the anticipated recession will likely further increase the number of families who need our help and support. Local authorities are bracing themselves for an unprecedented level of demand for children’s social care, in the autumn and beyond. We need and want to be in a position to support children now and in the future and we will need increased, and crucially the right, financial support from government to do this.

She went on to say: “The Comprehensive Spending Review is taking place in a very different context to any before it, all public services have been affected by the pandemic and will have competing demands. However, the Treasury must recognise that spending on children now, improving the circumstances in which they live and learn and supporting them to become adults who actively contribute to society is the ultimate invest to save case. An unprecedented level of investment in children’s services is needed to sustain services and respond to the scale of the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable children, young people and their families. ADCS estimates children’s services will need between £4.1 billion to £4.5 billion, in each year of the Spending Review. This will cost money now, however children and society as a whole will reap the rewards in the future.”

Jenny Coles concluded: “It’s time to do things differently. We have evidence that working with children and families at the earliest opportunity, using relational, strengths based practice models works but this requires a resource intensive long term approach. ADCS is calling on government to provide children’s services with a sustainable, equitable and long-term financial settlement that enables children to thrive, not just survive in the wake of the pandemic, and prevents the need for further cuts to early help and preventative services. I want to see the Treasury use the Spending Review to reboot how it invests in children and children’s services recognising the relationship between spending on vulnerable children now and future spending on vulnerable adults tomorrow. Children and families cannot wait any longer for this.”


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