LGA calls for children’s social care reform and increased funding amid soaring Section 47 enquiries

The number of section 47 enquiries carried out by councils has risen by 78% in the past decade, analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted.

The LGA drew attention to the rise as part of a call for the Independent Review of Children's Social Care to support a white paper by the autumn as well as long-term funding to reform children's services.

The Association said that the upcoming review offered a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to set out reforms to assist councils that have been "stuck in crisis mode" for too long.

Councils carry out section 47 enquiries when they have reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or at risk of significant harm.

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In 2021, 198,790 section 47 enquiries took place, up from 111,700 in 2011, Government statistics show.

In addition, the LGA highlighted a trend in councils overspending their budgets to keep up with rising demand to support vulnerable children, with councils overspending by more than £800m in the year 2020/21. This is despite councils increasing their budgets by £708m that year and by £1.2bn in the past two years.

Government data also show that the number of children in care in England has increased from 65,510 in 2011 to 80,850 in 2021 - a 23% rise.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said this is a "crucial year for the services that support our children and young people, with the schools white paper, a SEND green paper and the care review all being published in quick succession".

She added: "Councils, and the children, young people and families that they work with, have waited a long time for all of these pieces to be published.

"Children's social care services have been stuck in crisis mode for too long. We are ready to start making the changes that will improve our services and make children's lives better."

These new figures demonstrated how hard councils are working to invest in the services children need, Cllr Bramble argued. "However spiralling costs and increased demand means that funding is largely supporting those in most urgent need of help. We continue to call on the Government to invest additional funding in the strong family help services that can prevent families from reaching crisis point.

"The Independent Review of Children's Social Care is a once-in-a-generation chance to reform our systems to make sure all children and their families receive the right support at the right time, to enable them to thrive. The review must be followed by a children's social care white paper that demonstrates government's commitment to investing in and reforming the services that change children's lives."

Adam Carey

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