London boroughs call for early intervention funding boost

New research from London Councils has highlighted the life-changing impact that early intervention has on the most vulnerable young people in the capital.

The evaluation of children’s social care and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in the capital points to the value of investing in preventative services that stem future demand for more expensive services. However, London Councils is warning that a £185 million funding shortfall puts crucial services at risk.

This is exacerbated by fast-rising demand for children’s services in London outstripping the level of resource available to boroughs.

There has been a dramatic and sustained rise in demand for SEND support brought about by a very rapid increase in children and young people with Education Health and Care Plans (up 31 per cent from 2014/15 to 2017/18). While budgets have increased, spending has increased faster – leaving London boroughs with an in-year shortfall in 2017/18 of £77 million. In children’s social care, the overspend in 2017/18 was £108 million.

Therefore, future government spending decisions must ensure early intervention is adequately funded – particularly considering that government funding for the Troubled Families programme is due to end in 2020. Without the continuation of the Troubled Families grant, boroughs will see their ability to provide early help significantly diminished.

Nickie Aiken, London Councils’ executive member for Schools & Children’s Services, said: “The value of preventative services shines through these research findings, both in terms of positive impact on the lives of London’s most vulnerable children and young people and helping boroughs manage costs. When children and families aren’t getting the right support at the right time, the effects can be disastrous – leaving children and young people vulnerable to family breakdown and involvement in youth crime.

“London boroughs are committed to early intervention as the most cost-effective approach in the long term with the best results for children and families. However, we’re working in a context of fast-rising levels of demand for services while budgets are flatlining, with the result that we’re left to cope with an unsustainable annual funding shortfall of £185 million. London faces extremely challenging pressures, but we know local authorities around the country are in similar financial difficulties. The government needs to boost investment in children’s services in line with councils’ rising costs. That’s the only way to ensure the sustainability of the high-value, high-impact local services that make such a difference to children’s lives.”