NSPCC says Government cuts to children’s services are ‘a false economy’

The NSPCC is calling on national and local governments in England and Wales to re-consider making big cuts to children’s services.

The charity’s plea comes as new research by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, on behalf of the NSPCC, reveals that cuts to child protection and related services are disproportionately high.

According to the figures, based on spending data by English and Welsh Councils, on average 24 per cent of cuts are being made to children’s social care, and in some areas up to 40 per cent of cuts. This compares to just a 10 per cent reduction in overall local government spending and less than a two per cent fall in spending on adult social care.

The research, ‘Smart Cuts? Public spending on children’s social care’, also indicates that councils in England are projecting a loss of £1.86bn from children’s social services budgets in 2011/12, leaving a total spend of £6.28bn. Local authorities in urban areas with high number of looked after children are among those making the biggest cuts.

The most money is being cut from preventative services such as Sure Start children’s centres. The NSPCC warns that deep cuts to discretionary early intervention services may lead to a further increase in the number of children in need and looked after children.

In light of the findings, the charity is questioning if the cuts have to be so deep. It argues that some local authorities in England such as Bolton, Cheshire and Newcastle upon Tyne, have bucked the trend and decided not to cut funding at all for children’s social care this year.

In Wales, spending on children’s social care is set to fall by just 0.15 per cent, with a number of Welsh councils increasing their children’s social care budgets for 2011-12. The charity says this is down to Government cuts to local authority funding being almost four times higher in England than in Wales.

Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said, ‘We are concerned at how deeply and quickly some councils have reduced spending on children’s social care. Decisions that are made this year will have an impact on services for years to come.

‘We appreciate the need to make savings, and we understand the pressures local authorities are under, especially with large cuts to many funding streams from Whitehall. But we believe such unprecedented cuts in children’s services may be a false economy.

‘Well-resourced support services prevent family situations from deteriorating. They reduce the need for costly child protection plans and care placements at a later stage and actually save money.’