By Alison Stathers-Tracey

Demand is soaring for care and protection services for children. Significant overspend on children’s services so far this year is being reported across multiple local councils.

The increase in demand has left some local authorities unable to create enough provision or even deliver their statutory obligations. This is despite spending on children’s services increasing by a fifth between 2017 and 2022 and continuing to rise.

Costs and demand for children’s and family services are escalating

The proportion of local councils’ spending on children is mounting, although spending on prevention has actually decreased by over 50% since 2010.

The number of children with Education Health Care plans is rising significantly, with a particular increase in post-Covid requests by schools. The numbers of children having to come into care has gone up by 23% in 2021-22, rising on average by 8%, notably via emergency admissions. We are seeing increases in children requiring complex care too, including those with mental health needs and/or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Lack of SEND support

Mainstream schools are now expected to support children with additional needs but many struggle to do so, owing to a lack, not only of a suitably skilled workforce, but also of appropriate facilities.

The number of children not attending school post-Covid lockdowns, whether they are staying away voluntarily or have been temporarily or permanently excluded, remains worryingly high. A lack of SEND support puts further pressure on some of these vulnerable families and can lead to further section 20 requests from parents, adding up to further costs.

While many Local Authorities receive additional financial support via the Safety Valve or Delivering Beter Value in SEND DfE programmes, this only serves to stem demand on existing High Need Block DSG budgets, rather than creating capacity locally. The DfE has introduced complex grant monitoring and modelling process to propose that children will be supported in mainstream schools, bucking the trend in referrals from Headteachers and SENCOs.

Current planning and sufficiency modelling has traditionally not taken into account the current surge in demand, the pressure placed on SEND transport cost locally or the lack of available local planned special school places.

We believe that the new ICB commissioning infrastructure and a focus on reducing costs is actually distracting from integrated care placement planning for children.

Reduce soaring costs and build provision

Children’s Services is an area of expertise for the C.Co team. Working alongside commissioners and CSC leaders and young people and carers, and led by a Director of Children’s Services, we have produced a unique evidence-based support package for future SEND place planning, an effectiveness test for your Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process, the creation of new Alternative Provision but also support for the creation and forecasting of safe, stable homes and families for Cared for Children and Care Leavers.

Contact us to find out more about our unique capabilities.