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Family conflict and hardship driving increased pressure on child protection services

Domestic violence, substance misuse and offending causing rise in demand for child protection

A rise in family conflict and hardship is behind the heightened pressure on child protection services, according to a new survey of councillors responsible for children's social care by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Councils have seen a 53 per cent increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade, while 88 children are now taken into care every day to keep them safe.

With more children being referred for urgent child protection support, councils say that they are increasingly having to divert cash away from early intervention services, which can tackle problems for children at risk before they get worse, into the services that protect children at risk of immediate harm.

In an LGA poll of children's services of lead councillors, more than 80 per cent said problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse and offending were behind the rise in their area, while 70 per cent said that poverty, poor housing and debt played a part.

Of the councillors surveyed, 64 per cent said the number of children and young people receiving child protection support or being taken into care has increased "to a great extent" since 2015/16.

The LGA is calling for children's services to be fully funded alongside investment in services which prevent children reaching that point in the first place and help families to stay together and thrive.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by. Yet, funding pressures are coinciding with huge increases in demand for support because of problems like hardship and family conflict, which is making it increasingly difficult for them to do that.

"No family is immune to life's challenges, and every family should feel safe in the knowledge that if they need it, help is there to get things back on track.

"If councils are to give children and families they help they need and deserve, it is vital they are fully funded. This is not just children's services, but the breadth of support councils can provide, from public health to housing. 

"This extra funding will help but it is just one year. However councils need long-term, sufficient and sustainable funding so they can deliver the best for our children and families."

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