Spending Review: Cuts are 'child protection challenge'

Image caption,
Councils say children's budgets are being cut

Councils will face a challenge to fund child protection services after the spending cuts in England, the Local Government Association has warned.

Council leaders meeting in London were told the cuts would "hit people hard".

LGA financial director Stephen Jones said there were "significant pressures" on child protection.

The Spending Review has left councils facing 7% cuts each year for four years, and non-schools children's services are being cut by 12% in total.

The government increased the schools budget for under 16s in the spending review and that money is being ring-fenced at council level.

But the non-schools budget from the Department for Education - which covers other spending on children - is being cut by 12%.

Details of where the savings will be made or which programmes will be cut have not yet been released.

Council leaders are meeting in London to hear how the cuts and changes to local government will affect them.

'No easy answers'

Baroness Eaton told them: "The cuts will hit people hard. The spending review does leave councils facing some of the biggest cuts in the public sector, with no option but to inevitably, although reluctantly, cut frontline services people rely on."

She said councils would be asking tough questions - with no easy answers.

These included: "Shall we ask older people to pay more for their meals on wheels?" and "How can we keep children safe when other agencies have been cut too?"

In a briefing, the LGA's financial director Stephen Jones said the 12% cut in the non-schools part of the Department for Education's budget would be challenging because it helped to fund children's social services.

"This will make it a challenge for local authorities to fund services such as child protection," he said.

"There are significant pressures in the area of child protection."

The LGA says the costs of child protection have risen dramatically, particularly since the death of the toddler Peter Connolly - "Baby P" - in Haringey, north London.

There has been a big increase in the number of children being taken into care, with resultant rising costs for care and court proceedings.

The LGA says the cost of children protection has risen by 10% since the death of Peter Connolly in 2007.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services said there was "no doubt" that there would be fewer children's services than before.

While the body welcomed the protection of schools spending, it said directors of children's services "would have to argue strongly for investment in early intervention and prevention services as well as funding to meet their responsibilities to children at risk of harm given the removal of the ringfencing around funding for services for children".

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