Nicky Morgan has come under fire from listeners after saying local authorities need to focus on "leadership" when it comes to children's services rather than just money.
The education minister was speaking on BBC Radio 4 about findings that show a "huge" rise in the number of newborns who are subject to care proceedings in England.
She urged local authorities to “make sure that they are scrutinising every line on the budget”, adding that you can’t improve services by doing “the same old same old, it’s about looking at different ways of delivering services.”
“It’s not just about money,” Morgan told the programme. “Local authorities have protected children’s services and we do put money in when a trust is being set up, but it’s also about – obviously the quality of the work force – but also about the quality of the leadership."
But Karen Goodman, from the British Association of Social Workers, told the BBC that mothers whose children were removed often missed out on the drug and alcohol addiction treatment, mental health support and other care that could prevent them getting pregnant again.
She said the women "might not meet the eligibility criteria" for help at a time when budgets had been cut.
"We do know that all the services are under a great financial strain and resources are an issue."
People criticised Morgan for failing to understand the impact of Tory government spending cuts on local authorities following her interview.
#r4today Nicky Morgan appears to be shocked that councils with no money can't pay for services-Somebody give her a lesson in economics— Andy Birss (@1957AJB) December 14, 2015
And well... Twitter did:
Dear Nicky Morgan, "leadership" can't make up for a lack of funds to sustain services: generally, it just can put a brave face on disaster.— Christian DeFeo (@doctorcdf) December 14, 2015
Irritated by Nicky Morgan's assertion that "leadership" can fill gaps that lack of resources leave behind. This is utter nonsense.— Christian DeFeo (@doctorcdf) December 14, 2015
Children's Services in our area are funded far less well than in 2010. Fact. You'd never know listening to Nicky Morgan #r4today.— Peter Smith (@Redpeter99) December 14, 2015
And then some just added insult to injury:
Nicky Morgan sickeningly hypocritical about children in care. No improvement without more money & improved status for social work. #r4today— diana brighouse (@dianabrighouse) December 14, 2015
The government is tasking high-performing local authorities, charities and “experts” to turn children's services around, by forming “trusts” to take over from authorities that are judged to be failing.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was part of the Tories’ drive to “confront state failure” and that details of who would be eligible to take over children’s services were still to be finalised.
The Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Board Chairs (AILC) said that it welcomes the Prime Minister's concern for children and supports the objective of ensuring that children everywhere receive good quality care and protection.
AILC’s Chair, David N Jones said: “This objective is especially important in the current climate when the number of new concerns about children at risk is increasing month by month. Police, teachers, health workers and social workers who take on these difficult investigations need all the support they can get.”
Whilst Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "We need to ensure we have the best possible services across the UK to support children and families, especially those who are most vulnerable.
"There must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place. We want to work with local authorities and others in local communities to ensure the best outcomes for children.
"We clearly welcome the opportunity to share our learning from developing and delivering services for children, particularly where we've worked in strategic partnerships with local authorities, to ensure effective solutions can be implemented."
The criticism for Morgan's comments come just months after the prime minister wrote a stinging letter to his local council complaining that budget cuts are hitting vital services, failing to remember his own government's role in tightening the nation's pursestrings.
David Cameron lamented to Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth that he was "disappointed" to hear of proposals "to make significant cuts to frontline services – from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums".