Cuts to local services and the rise of cyber-bullying, gaming addiction and online grooming are creating a “perfect storm” in children’s social care that cuts across economic and class divides, the head of Barnardo’s has warned.
He writes: “Across the country, there are children living in comfortable homes with their parents, who seem safe and secure, but the moment they switch on their smart phone, tablet or computer, they enter a whole new realm, where the usual rules, regulations and safeguards do not apply.
“From cyber-bullying to gaming addiction to online grooming, the risks are all too real – and they apply to everyone.”
The effects of austerity have been keenly felt in the social care sector, meaning there is less now less money to help more and more young people.
Last month the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, said she had written to ministers calling on the government to intervene to ensure youngsters across the country are protected from local authorities’ financial difficulties.
In an indication of the scale of the problem across England, Longfield said work carried out with the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed “half of all the spending on children’s services goes on the 70,000 children who are in care”, and “if you add in those who are on the child protection registers, that’s over 80%, leaving very, very little for any others”.
This concentration of resources on those already in care means there is little being done to take preventative measures that could help children before they enter the care system.
Khan writes: “We need to look at the way we are delivering children’s services, forming long-term strategic partnerships with councils, the police, NHS, and other charities, to co-design and deliver the services children, families and communities really need.
“We must keep one step ahead, investing in long-term partnerships, sharing knowledge, testing new approaches, and above all, listening to what young people really need. That’s the only way to achieve our ultimate goal - of better outcomes for more children.”