Despite clamours from inside the sector that children’s services are perfectly adequate, the growing body of data being collected by think tanks and monitoring bodies tell a very different story.
An evidence review produced by leading think tank, The Education Policy Institute has concluded that unless the government spends more money on children’s services, the child welfare sector is likely to buckle completely under the weight of existing, and upcoming pressures it faces.
The report focuses on a lack of resources inside the sector, which is in part responsible for the poor levels of support families experience when they engage with their local authorities. The review also touches on some of Researching Reform’s own bug bears like proper data gathering. No system can function properly without dedicated people meticulously gathering important information in order to better understand what families need. At the moment, it’s almost impossible to find even the most basic data about these services and the families who come into contact with them.
Here are some of the key stats from the Institute’s report:
- 64% of local authorities were rated Requires improvement or Inadequate on overall effectiveness, with 34% judged to be Good and 2% rated Outstanding
- Beyond educational outcomes, evidence shows that children in contact with social services experience worse outcomes through life
- Children in need experience more educational instability, including more moves between schools and a much higher rate of fixed-period and permanent exclusions
- A fifth of all LAC, and half of those placed in children’s homes, secure units or other semi-independent living accommodation (up from 40 per cent in 2015/16), were placed more than 20 miles from their home in 2017
- 71% of all LAC in 2016 experienced a change in their placement, social worker or school over a 12-month period, and a third of LAC in school had experienced ‘high instability’ in the last year – defined as multiple placement moves, multiple social worker changes and/or a mid-year school move.
- There are currently 389,430 children in need (CIN) in England. These children are considered to be unlikely to achieve reasonable health and development without support services.
- For at least the last 8 years, there has been a rise in the numbers of children issued with Child Protection Plans and council care orders. The report partially attributes to a deliberate response by social services to high-profile serious case reviews into child deaths resulting from abuse.
- The report also highlights other factors, like cuts to early intervention (EI) services and deprivation, as contributing factors to a rise in acute need.
- The report notes that an increase in these more acute forms of monitoring and intervention is happening despite staff-reported increases in thresholds for access to services.
- Better data is needed in order to be able to support vulnerable children better.
What do you think?