LGA calls for restoration of £1.7bn early intervention funding

The Local Government Association has said that government cuts to early intervention funding in the past decade must be urgently reversed as councils prepare for a surge in demand for support for children and young people who have ‘disappeared’ from view as a result of the pandemic.

The LGA said that councils are bracing themselves for a rise in referrals for support that would have normally been made when children were being seen regularly by social workers and health workers. Some children and families will need significant interventions, including child protection plans or even coming into the care system.

But for many, they will just need some extra help to get through a difficult period. That could be low level mental health support, sessions with a youth worker, understanding how to support children showing difficult behaviours, or working through parental conflict.

However, the Early Intervention Grant has been reduced by the government by almost two-thirds – down from £2.8 billion in 2010/11 to £1.1 billion in 2018/19. Because of this, many children’s services departments have been forced to cut back the universal and early help services – such as children’s centres and family support services – that can help tackle and prevent emerging problems before they reach crisis point.

In their latest publication, A child-centred recovery, the LGA is calling for the Spending Review to restore the lost £1.7 billion in funding to councils, which would enable councils to reinstate some of these lost services which can help all children, young people and families to thrive.

Councils are expecting a rise in referrals for increased family, child and adolescent support as the coronavirus pandemic enters a second phase and amid recently introduced increased lockdown measures.

The LGA says a lack of investment in early help services will lead to much greater costs to the public purse as problems escalate and become far more severe. It says children need to be at the heart of policy and decision-making to ensure every child can thrive, with local safety nets properly resourced and well organised.

Council leaders are also calling on government to urgently work with councils and providers to increase the availability of placements for looked-after children and young people to ensure that suitable placements are available to meet their needs.

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “If we are to avoid families falling into crisis and causing long-term damage to the prospects of children and young people, the Spending Review needs to ensure councils have enough funding to reinvest in the preventative services that children, young people and families need, as soon as they need it – and before problems escalate and reach crisis point.

“Children’s services were already under strain prior to the pandemic, but those pressures have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and these services are now even more crucial to help families get through difficult periods. Funding to meet increased demand for child protection and children in care services is also vital.

“Support for significant interventions, including child protection plans and children entering the care system, will be needed, alongside proper investment in both children’s mental health services, which are under enormous strain, and vital youth services to help a generation hit hard during the crisis. The government’s review of the children’s care system needs to begin as soon as possible, but we want to work with ministers ahead of this on increasing provision for care placements so councils can continue to best support and protect our most vulnerable children.”