More than 80% of children referred to social care services in London are judged ineligible for their support and left at risk of enduring “prolonged periods of unmet needs”, according to a leading children’s charity.
Research by Action for Children found the capital to be one of the regions of England least likely to provide early help to children thought susceptible to recurrent episodes of abuse, neglect or other forms of maltreatment.
The charity estimates that up to 20,000 vulnerable young Londoners brought to the attention of social services by teachers, the police or health professionals end up in a “revolving door” of assessment and repeat referral because their situations are not among the most desperate.
Only Yorkshire and the Humber was less likely than London to come to such children’s aid, with 17% of referrals there being given “early help” compared with London’s 18%. The North West region was the most likely with a rate of 40%, followed by the South West with 39%.
Action For Children made Freedom of Information requests to every local authority in the capital, receiving an 88% response rate, as well as interviewing staff and some of its own family workers. Chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: “Punishing savings targets have given local authorities no option but to drastically shrink or abandon services, including family support, leaving large numbers of children on the fringes of social care without the help they need”.
Some of London’s poorest boroughs have been forced to cope with the deepest cuts in government funding since the election of the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010. The then chair of London Councils, the body representing all the capital’s 33 local authorities, said at the time that the scale of these reductions was so large that “no combination” of efficiencies would be “sufficient to protect the services that Londoners expect to be funded”.
A 2015 investigation by the Financial Times of what it called the Austerity State revealed that boroughs had been making huge reductions in their spending per child in need between 2010 and 2014, with Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham making cuts in the region of 20%.
The principal architect of the coalition’s austerity programme was the then chancellor George Osborne, who is now editor of the the London Evening Standard.
Read the whole of Action For Children’s “Revolving Door” report here.