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Vulnerable children ‘paying the price of Tory austerity’
March 09, 2018
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LONDON: Vulnerable children are “paying the price” of austerity as children’s services face a gaping funding gap, Labour has warned.

A report published by the party on Thursday said the number of children in care shot up last year by more than in any year since 2010.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said it was a “national scandal” that, despite growing demand, children’s services are facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Labour called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to use next week’s Spring Statement to pledge additional money to meet the shortfall. This could be paid for by “reversing the tax giveaways to large banks,” it said.

The funding shortfall comes despite demand for children’s services having increased in recent years. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of children subject to a child protection plan increased by 29 per cent, while those deemed as being in need rose by 5 per cent.

The number of children in care increased by 10 per cent in the same period.

Despite growing pressure on services and evidence that intervening early is key to protecting children, Labour said there has been a 40 per cent reduction in local councils’ spending on early intervention since 2010, as a result of government-imposed budget cuts. It is forecast to fall by a further 29 per cent by 2020.

McDonnell said: “It is a national scandal that vulnerable children are paying the price for the austerity policies of this Tory government.” The decrease in funding combined with growing demand resulted in three quarters of councils in England exceeding their children’s services budget last year, with the total overspend topping £600m, according to the LGA.

Forty-one per cent of councillors with responsibility for children’s services has felt unable to meet at least one of their statutory duties as a result of a funding shortfall, the National Children’s Bureau has previously found.

McDonnell said: “Today’s report lays out in stark detail how nearly eight years of Tory austerity has created a crisis in children’s services in our country.

“It is simply unacceptable that while there are more children being taken into care today that at any point since the 1980s, children’s services face a £2bn deficit by 2020. “And according to the National Children’s Bureau, more than one in three councillors are warning that cuts have left them with insufficient resources to support these children.”

The Independent

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