Town halls have blown a £3billion hole in their budgets for keeping children safe over the past five years, they revealed today.
Councils overspent as grants from Whitehall were slashed, according to the Local Government Association.
It called on the Government to use the forthcoming review of the children’s social care system to work with councils to understand why there has been a surge in demand for support.
More than 52,000 children are subject to child protection plans to keep them safe – a rise of 53% since 2009.
The number of children in care – 78,150 – has increased by 28% in the past decade.
The LGA said the “sharp rise in need for urgent child protection services has coincided with reductions in central government funding for councils”.
Council’s budgets for children’s social care have risen by an average of more than £600million a year over the past five years.
But they still spent £3.2billion more than planned on children’s social care over the same period.
The LGA’s Children and Young People Board chairwoman Judith Blake said: “These figures show the unprecedented demand pressures facing children’s services and the care system.
“Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.
“Councils need to play a lead role in the Government’s review of the care system alongside children, families and partners, to make sure it looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference.
“A long-term sustainable funding solution would enable councils to protect children at immediate risk of harm while also supporting early help to prevent problems escalating in the first place.”
Children’s Society’s director of policy and research Sam Royston said: “Devastating funding cuts have left councils struggling to offer crucial early help for families which can prevent children reaching crisis point.
“As they seek to protect vital services it is no surprise they are ending up overspending on budgets which simply don’t meet the demand they are facing to support really vulnerable children.
“Too many children are not getting the help they deserve, without which they may be more likely to be unhappy, go missing and be at risk of criminal and sexual exploitation.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are giving local authorities access to an extra £1billion grant for adult and child social care next year – on top of continuing the £410million in social care next year – so that every child in care receives the support they need.
“We know the numbers of children in care are rising, which is why we are taking early action to keep families together when safe to do so, while working to boost the number of foster and adoptive parents.
“We are also moving forward with an independent review to take a fundamental look across children’s social care.”
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