After a four-month investigation, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found more than half of the councils in England are cutting funds for vulnerable children, because the costs of these services put almost all councils over budget. In the investigation, published on February 7, 2018, the Bureau found 57 councils’ budget plans for the coming year include cuts to the area, out of 101 responsible for children’s services. The recent cuts will cause reduced support for disabled children, cuts to child protection teams, and closures for children’s centres.
A survey of councils by the Local Government Information Unit revealed 31.8%, which is nearly a third of councils, say their biggest immediate concern is finding money for children’s social care. Over the past nine years, the number of children looked after by the state has steadily increased, according to the Department of Education, but since 2010, around £2.4bn has been cut from the budgets for children’s services.
The government has not set aside any additional money for children’s services, despite these services being a bigger cost than adult care. However, for adult care, £2bn was set aside in the spring of 2017 and on February 6, 2018, they announced another £150m to be set aside.
“Unless the government finally listens to the demands of councillors, parents and politicians of all parties, and makes a change of direction, then more vulnerable children will go without the care that they need, and councils will be pushed dangerously close to the financial brink,” said Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Andrew Gwynne, in the article.
An article from the Guardian on February 8, 2018 about council budgets and tax hikes, briefly mentions the survey by the Local Government Information Unit, and that children’s services are suffering. Then, on February 10, 2018, an article from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus mentioned a protest in Bradford city centre, to raise awareness for the cuts to children’s services. However, neither article fully mentioned all of the details that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism did, and one of the quotes from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus says “Many of the people we spoke to today didn’t know about the plans and were shocked to hear that Bradford Council is planning such large cuts in children’s services.” However, there hasn’t been any coverage on the story outside of the UK.
Gareth Davies, “Councils “dangerously close to brink” as half plan to cut spending on vulnerable children,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 7, 2018, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2018-02-07/childrens-services-perilous-as-councils-struggle-to-balance-their-budgets.
“Campaigners against children’s services cuts take to the streets,” Bradford Telegraph and Argus, February 10, 2018, http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/local/localbrad/15986448.Campaigners_against_children__39_s_services_cuts_take_to_the_streets/.
Warren Murray, “Thursday briefing: Big council tax hikes on the way,” The Guardian, February 8, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/08/thursday-briefing-council-tax-hikes-on-the-way.
Student Researcher: Alexa Lawlor (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluators: Janelle Blakley and Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)