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Child referred to children's services every 49 seconds, councils warn

Urgent need to address the £2billion funding gap in children’s services

A child was referred to local authority children's services every 49 seconds last year, the Local Government Association has revealed.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, said children's services face a £2 billion funding gap by 2020 and are struggling to cope with rising demand for support.

There were 646,120 referrals overall to councils' children's services during 2016/17. With 1,770  referrals being made every day, that is the equivalent of one every 49 seconds. More than 500 child protection investigations were also started on average each day in 2016/17, increasing from 200 a decade ago.

The LGA said the figures reinforce the urgent need for the Government to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to address the £2billion funding gap that is facing children's services by the end of the decade. It warns that failure to close this gap will leave many children and families across the country, who desperately rely on these crucial services, at risk.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"[W]hile these figures are encouraging as a reflection of heightened awareness and identification of child abuse, they also highlight the staggering scale of the pressures that have now been building on children's services for a number of years …

"The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts, including the £2billion gap that councils face by 2020, have left them struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need.
"The £2billion funding gap must be addressed in the final Local Government Finance Settlement to ensure the support that families need from council child protection services is there now and in years to come."