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Councils struggle to meet duties under Children Act

Some local authorities are no longer fulfilling their statutory duties to children and nearly nine out of ten local authorities are finding it “increasingly challenging”, according to a new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children.

Research commissioned by the MPs found that 89 per cent of directors of children’s services say it is increasingly difficult to provide the support required under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. And the authors of the report add that “some services cannot even fulfil their legal duty” as demand rises and funding falls.

The MPs' report - ‘No Good Options’ - includes the research as well as the views of social services directors who gave evidence to the parliamentarians.

It found that the numbers of child protection plans rose 29 per cent over the five years to April 2016. In the same period local authority spending power fell 20 per cent.

The research also found wide disparities in the approach of individual local authorities, with some areas seven times more likely to take a child into care than others. The group’s chair, Tim Loughton MP, said: “This cannot simply be explained by differences in deprivation; it points instead to variation in policy and practice.”

The Parliamentary Group also found a growing of authorities allocating fewer resources to early intervention and prevention because of the cost of formal proceedings later in the process, resulting in a vicious circle of rising care applications.

The report makes 12 main recommendations to government -  including a plan for incentivising investment in early intervention and prevention and a review of resourcing for children’s social care services.

The sector is “in crisis" across the country, according to the politicians. They added: “This is happening right now and the evidence we have heard over the last year indicates that it could get even worse.”