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Access to high-quality support for all vulnerable children by 2022 ‘a tall order’

Poor progress made in improving children’s social care services: National Audit Office

The National Audit Office has concluded in a new report that it will be 'a tall order' for the Department for Education to achieve its stated aim that all vulnerable children, no matter where they live, should have access to high-quality support by 2022.

In the opinion of the NAO, over the last two years the Department has made poor progress in improving children's social care services. While the Department has put in place a programme of reform, it still does not fully understand what is driving demand for children's social care or why there is such wide variation between local authorities in their children's social care activity and costs.

It has not yet done the work to tie together available sources of information and therefore lacks a well-informed pathway to achieve its goal. While the Department has recognised the need for this analysis, it will not complete that work until summer 2019.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, commented:

"Over two years ago we reported that the Department for Education's progress in improving children's services was not up to scratch. Since then the Department has adopted the target of giving all vulnerable children access to high quality support, no matter where they live, by 2022. The Department has started to build its understanding of variations in services, but it should know more than it does. Even with this understanding, the Department faces a tall order to achieve its goal within three years."

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, responding to the report, said:

"We know the numbers of children going into care has rocketed in recent years and that the social and economic consequences are huge. At a time when budgets are squeezed and councils are under pressure, it is more important than ever that the Department for Education and local government identify the most vulnerable children before they reach crisis point and make sure they have measures in place to offer the support and protection they need. The Government's next spending review is a big opportunity to start investing in early help, instead of having to spend more and more on dealing with crisis."

The NAO's report sets out recent trends in pressures on children's social care demand and activity and the response of both national and local government to these pressures. It also sets out analysis conducted about what is causing variations in children's social care demand and activity between different local authorities. The report covers:

For the report, click here. For a summary, click here.