“Insufficient to meet demand”: Our response to the Children’s Social Care inquiry
In December, the Education Committee launched an inquiry to evaluate England's children's social care system.
On 15 January, we responded to the inquiry; sharing our views on different issues, including what is going wrong and the specific experiences of disabled children.
Below is a summary of our response.
In a nutshell
The current provision of children's social care is insufficient to meet demand.
Different factors are causing the increase in demand for children's social care including underinvestment, poverty and deprivation, the impact of policies in other areas (welfare, housing), and lack of support for families.
Decreased levels of investment in early intervention have contributed to the rising costs of late-stage children's social care intervention for local authorities. The current system leaves families waiting for extended periods to receive necessary care.
Only £200 million has been allocated to solving the sufficiency crisis despite the annual cost of maintaining the current children's social care system being £10 billion a year. Read more here.
Social care “market”
The children's social care sector faces a long-standing challenge of insufficient residential settings.
The rise in unregistered homes, schools and alternative provision for children is a serious issue for the sector. Councils are placing more children in unregistered placements due to increasing need, limited provision, and reported instances of ‘cherry-picking’ where providers refuse to care for children with complex needs.
The shortage of placements has led to more children being placed far from home, and in inappropriate placements, causing councils to pay increased costs.
This results in unplanned moves and out-of-area placements, affecting children's well-being. We do not support moving children away from their community where it is not in their best interests.
Semi-independent accommodation is the fastest-growing “market” for children, not because it is in their best interest, but because it is more profitable, and easier to run, and there is a constant demand as there are too few registered children’s homes that provide care available.
We believe that all children in care need care. We do not support the creation of a new regulation and inspection regime for semi-independent accommodation.
Experiences of disabled children
There is a lack of support for disabled children or children with additional needs.
Just 1 in 7 parents and carers said that disabled children have the correct level of support from the children’s social care system (DCP, 2023).
The transition from children to adult services can be particularly stark for young disabled people who do not have a formal diagnosis. Additionally, life is more expensive for disabled people, but many do not receive the financial support necessary to help them live a happy life.
Recommendations for the government
Make children's social care a central aim of policy across areas such as housing, education, immigration, health, and social care (amongst others).
Provide funding for wholesale reform to children’s social care to provide certainty to the sector.
Prioritise funding for early intervention services to cover family support demand.
Build more sufficiency across the country and ensure a place-based approach to address local authorities’ funding uncertainty and planning.
Invest in more respite care for disabled children.
End the use of semi-independent accommodation, mindful of the recommendation made in the Care Review that “all children should receive care where they live by 2025”.
We are currently undertaking a research project on unregistered settings.
We have volunteers working on research projects in children's social care areas where there are research gaps (e.g., the link between poverty and children entering care). The projects will be published within the year.