Child services leaders warn of cuts 'perfect storm'
Child protection services leaders in England are warning of a "perfect storm", with expected funding cuts coming as numbers of referrals rise.
Government figures published on Thursday showed a roughly 11% rise in referrals to social services, in the year ending in March 2010.
The number of children in care rose by approximately 6%, while the number on protection plans rose by nearly 5%.
Cuts are expected in the comprehensive spending review, due on 20 October.
High-profile child protection cases, particularly that of Baby Peter, have boosted a rising trend in referrals in recent years.
Meanwhile, cuts were announced in July to the grants local authorities receive from central government for children's services.
But as the coalition has protected front-line schools funding, there are concerns that other children's and youth services will suffer further.
The government data showed there were 607,5000 referrals childrens social care services in 2009-10, compared to 547,000 the previous year.
There were 35,700 children who were subject to a child protection plan on 31 May 2010, compared to 34,100 a year earlier.
The Department warned that there had been a change in data collection methods, so comparisons between this year and last year are approximate.
Marion David, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, warned that without investment in early intervention services, "we risk creating a perfect storm - as demand rises and resources reduce".
"We know the deficit must be reduced and that all public services must play their part in doing so. But we would be irresponsible to accept cuts now and have to return to central government with a begging bowl later, when we have the chance to reduce the costs for the longer term," she said.
The government has commissioned two independent reviews, one into child protection as a whole, by Eileen Munro of the London School of Economics, and another into the role of early intervention measures.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said children's social services were "working under increasing pressure", although he said there "hadn't been a significant rise" in the number of children on child protection plans.
"The care system is still experiencing the fall-out from the Baby Peter case and pressures will remain challenging," he said.
Social workers should be freed from "unnecessary bureaucracy and endless targets", he said.
Mr Loughton also said he wanted councils to learn from areas where early intervention was working well, and that the care system "must work better" at placing children.