THE BLOG

Social Care Can't Just Be There For When A Family Is In Meltdown

20/08/2017 20:57 BST | Updated 20/08/2017 20:57 BST
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Action for Children's ambition is that every child who needs help, gets help. It's essential there is support available to address children's problems as soon as they emerge; and that help isn't only available when a family is in meltdown.

Up to 140,000 vulnerable children in England referred to social services by teachers, police or health professionals for concerns including abuse and neglect are not getting help because their needs fall short of the criteria for support.

These are the findings from our latest report, 'Revolving Door', based on a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to local authorities.

We found that in 2015-16, 184,500 children's needs assessments were closed as 'no further action' as they did not meet the threshold for statutory services. Of these, around one in four families were signposted to early help services such as children's centres or domestic violence programmes, leaving an estimated 140,000 children without support.

We're turning a spotlight on these thousands of families up and down the country who are not getting help, despite concerns having been raised about the welfare of a child. Every day too many children's lives are overshadowed by drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence and neglect - a toxic recipe for all kinds of problems now and in later life.

We know from our work with thousands of children across the UK the difference early help can make. Children's centres and family support for problems like domestic violence provide help that can stop problems from spiralling out of control. Years of austerity and budget cuts, however, mean that too often these essential support services are no longer available.

There is growing awareness of the scale of the funding challenges that local authorities face and the significant impact this has on children and families' ability to get help before crisis point. The Local Government Association has warned there will be a £2 billion funding gap for children's services by 2020, which means that in many areas children's services are being pushed to breaking point.

This situation risks leaving large numbers of children on the fringes of social care without the help they need. We cannot afford to miss opportunities to help these children and their families at an early stage.

We're calling on the Government to strengthen the legal framework for early help services and provide adequate funding to local authorities so they can provide help as soon as children need it.

If the Government is serious about looking after the most vulnerable children in society, it must urgently re-invest in local services that are proven to tackle the root causes of neglect and abuse - not just hope it can firefight the symptoms.