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Cuts led to vulnerable children ‘crisis’: House of Lords Public Services Committee

More than a million vulnerable children in England have had their life chances reduced by cuts to early years and youth support since 2010. These cuts should be reversed. That is the finding of a new report from the House of Lords Public Services Committee.

The Committee states that lack of investment in protecting children at risk of serious harm has been felt disproportionately in the most deprived areas, resulting in worse life chances for children, bigger bills for taxpayers and more pressure on social services.

The Committee wants the Government to pledge to return to higher 2010 levels of investment in early help services to support children and families. Ministers should set out urgently a national cross-Government funded strategy with a plan for a nationwide roll-out of Family Hubs (centres where families and young people get joined-up help with a range of problems) at its heart.

According to the report, a government Spending Review commitment to fund a small number of Family Hubs in only half of local authority areas will not compensate for the closure of children's centres and falls "far short" of the vision set out in its own Early Years review, chaired by Dame Andrea Leadsom, which recommended that all families should be able to access a Hub.

Spending on early intervention support in areas of England with the highest levels of child poverty fell by 53 per cent between 2010 and 2019, research by Pro Bono Economics for the committee found, including:

Walsall—down 81 per cent

Manchester—down 75 per cent

Liverpool—down 65 per cent

The Government's pledge to spend £492 million on early help services over the next three years is welcomed by the Committee, but after a decade of underinvestment this would not repair the creaking public services infrastructure on which vulnerable children rely, or make up for the £1.7 million-a-year cuts to council services such as Sure Start centres and family support since 2010.

A survey of almost 200 public service professionals found that half had seen a rise since the start of the pandemic in the number of children and families requesting help with mental ill-health, domestic violence and addiction problems.

Lack of coordination by Government and regulators has undermined the ability of local services to work together effectively, intervene early and share information to keep vulnerable children safe and improve their lives, according to the committee.

For the report, click here. For an enhanced summary of the report, click here. For comment by the Local Government Association, click here.