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‘Soaring demand to protect vulnerable children drives cost of care up by a quarter’: LGA

Soaring demand to protect vulnerable children at risk of harm has seen spending to provide support increase by almost a quarter in five years, with an upcoming national care review a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to set out long-awaited reform, the Local Government Association has warned.

The LGA, which represents councils, is urging the Independent Review of Children's Social Care to call for a white paper by the autumn, as well as a long-term funding solution for services that have been "stuck in crisis mode" for too long. The review was commissioned by government to look at where and how far the children's social care system needs to change.

The LGA says that latest figures show that councils in England spent over £10.5 billion on children's social care in 2020/21 – nearly 25 per cent higher than in 2016/17, where expenditure was almost £8.5 billion.

They also reveal:

• More than two thirds of councils are now overspending their budgets, to keep up with rising demand to support vulnerable children. Councils overspent by more than £800 million in the year 2020/21. This is despite councils increasing their budgets by £708 million that year and by £1.2 billion in the past two years.

• In the past decade, the number of Section 47 enquiries, carried out when councils have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or at risk of, significant harm has increased from 111,700 in 2011 to 198,790 in 2021 - a rise of 78 per cent.

• The number of children in care in England has increased from 65,510 in 2011 to 80,850 in 2021 – a 23 per cent rise.

For the LGA's statement, click here. For the official statistical release showing local authority revenue expenditure and financing: 2020-21, click here.