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Some children stuck in a 'revolving door' of referral and assessment

Action for Children says vulnerable children are increasingly receiving help only at crisis point

On 14 August 2017 Action for Children published a report entitled Revolving Door: are vulnerable children being overlooked? The report raises concerns that opportunities to intervene early are being missed. Some children, the charity says, are stuck in a revolving door into social care, in a cycle of referral and assessment, but only receiving help at crisis point.

Whilst vital family support services for problems such as domestic violence provide can help to prevent them spiralling out of control, and obviate the need for statutory services to be involved later on, years of austerity and budget cuts mean that often these essential support services are no longer available.

Action for Children examined whether children who are vulnerable but do not meet the criteria for statutory support, were directed to early help services that could help them and their families.

In 2015-16, there were 184,500 children referred to children's social care whose cases were closed as 'no further action' after assessment. Only one in four children were referred to early help services such as children's centres or domestic violence programmes. This leaves an estimated 140,000 children on the fringes of social care without support.

Although these children do not reach statutory thresholds, the charity emphasises that they are still vulnerable. It found that common needs are domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, parental mental health and substance misuse. Not only can living with these problems make a child's life miserable, but even at a low level, neglect can affect all aspects of children's development and the relationships they make throughout their lives.

Ongoing budget cuts have made it increasingly difficult for local authorities to provide early help services, especially in a context of increasing need in families. Action for Children recognises that when it is time to make tough decisions about a shrinking budget, it can be difficult to prioritise early help support. However, it says that the impact of this is clear: children's centres have shut at a rate of around six per month since January 2010.

Action for Children is calling on the Government to strengthen the statutory framework for early help services and provide adequate funding to local authorities so they can provide help as soon as children need it.

Last week the Local Government Association warned that shildren's social services were at 'breaking point'. For more details, click here.

To read the report, click here.

14/8/17