Government must invest in children’s & youth services

Leading children’s charities and local councils have called on the Government to urgently close the funding gap facing children and young people’s services as new research reveals a sharp rise in families reaching “crisis point”.

An open letter signed by five major organisations warns that children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with a £2bn funding gap expected to open by 2020. It urges ministers to “step up” and use the Autumn Budget to invest in vital services in order to save youngsters from serious harm.

The signatories, which include Barnardo’s, Action for Children and the Local Government Association (LGA), state that between them they have “spent years warning successive governments that a failure to invest in these vital services will have long term consequences” for the UK’s children and families.

The letter, comes as a report by three leading children’s charities reveals “crippling” central government cuts have left councils with no option but to close services designed to detect early signs of child neglect and abuse – forcing them to direct to a “crisis” fire-fighting model.

Demand for crisis support for children has risen sharply as council spending on services that are designed to spot signs of neglect and abuse early has fallen by 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the report shows. Central government funding for children and young people’s services has seen a real terms decrease of £2.4bn in that period, while local authority allocations for these services has fallen by £1.6bn.

At the same time, there has been a 108 per cent increase in child protection investigations, as demand for council help soars.

The research, from The Children’s Society, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau, also reveals stark geographical discrepancies, with the most deprived councils in England having cut spending on children’s services by almost a quarter (23 per cent) – six times as much as the least deprived councils.

The open letter to ministers reads:

“Children’s social care is being pushed to breaking point, with an unprecedented surge in demand leaving services across the public, voluntary and community sector struggling to cope.

“We believe that all children deserve the chance of a bright future. That’s why we are uniting today to urge the Government to use the Autumn Budget to close the funding gap facing children’s services, which will reach at least £2bn by 2020.”

It states that the number of children needing child protection plans has nearly doubled over the past decade, and last year saw the largest annual increase in children in care since 2013. The organisations also highlight that local authorities overspent on children’s services by £365m in 2014/15 just to keep children safe, and a huge £605m the following year.

The letter adds:

“Our children and young people deserve better than the gradual decline of services – particularly those services that help children early – that have been shown to make a real difference to their lives”

“Councils and the voluntary sector are committed to getting the best for every child. Now we need the same commitment from our government, starting with urgent action through the Budget to give local services the resources they need to help children and families thrive.”

The number of young people subject to child protection enquires increased by 140 per cent – to 170,000 – in the past decade, according to research by the LGA earlier this year.

A separate study more recently revealed that benefit cuts and increased levels of poverty across the UK were the primary cause for this “unprecedented surge” in demand for children’s services, while a lack of resources to provide universal services like children’s centres and youth clubs also played a significant part.

 

 

Tens of thousands of UK teenagers neglected at home, report says

Survey of year 10 pupils suggests one in seven experience some form of neglect, risking their physical and emotional health.

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A survey commissioned by the Children’s Society found that one in seven 14- and 15-year-olds had experienced at least one form of neglectful parenting, the equivalent of three to four students in every year 10 classroom.

Emotional and supervisory neglect were the joint most common forms reported by year 10 pupils and the former was associated with teenagers being more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Those who said they had experienced emotional neglect were more than twice as likely than their peers to have got drunk recently, nearly three times as likely to have smoked and more than twice as likely to have skipped lessons.

Neglected teenagers were also significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, pessimistic about their futures and lacking confidence in their abilities. Children who reported frequent support from parents were more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing. Young people who were materially deprived were more likely to be neglected than their peers.

The Children’s Society said that the problems stem partly from an incorrect perception that teenagers needed less care and support than younger children. It wanted to see better support and advice for parents bringing up adolescents.

The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said:

“No child should be left feeling that no one cares about them. Teenagers are often seen as more resilient than younger children. But of course they still need care from their parents to meet their needs, support their education and keep them safe.

“Our research makes clear the central role of parental care and emotional support to the wellbeing of young people. With little dedicated advice readily available for parents of teenagers, we need to provide more support to parents bringing up teenagers, not to blame them. The government has a massive role to play in making sure the needs of teenagers, and their parents, are never forgotten. Society must not give up on teens.”

Recommendations in the report, published on Tuesday, include parenting classes for families with adolescent children, training on understanding adolescent neglect for frontline education, health and youth justice workers and more work to enable young people to recognise neglectful situations and know what help is available.

The University of York polled a representative sample of about 2,000 young people aged 12 to 15 in 72 schools for the report, asking them about their experiences of being cared for by their parents.

Teenage sex-crime victims ‘don’t report offences as they fear not being believed’

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Huge numbers of sex crimes against older teenagers in England and Wales in the last year went unreported and unpunished because many victims were gripped by the fear of not being believed and suspicion of the justice system, a new report by The Children’s Society reveals.

The staggering scale of under-reporting is highlighted in new figures obtained and analysed by The Children’s Society, as part of its Seriously Awkward campaign, which underline the appalling number of sexual offences against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year.

Through freedom of information requests, the charity found that police in England recorded 4,900 sexual offence cases — including sexual exploitation, rape and sexual assaults — against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year. But in stark contrast, the organisation’s analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales reveals that an estimated 50,000 girls alone say they have been victims of these crimes. More than for other age groups.

The report shows that half of those young people who did not report sexual crimes to the police did not report it because they either did not consider it worth reporting, feared going to court, or because they did not want the perpetrators punished. It is a picture that is reflected by the charity’s front-line staff who work with children and young people across the country who have been sexually abused or are at risk of sexual exploitation.

Many do not go to the police, fearing they will not be believed or that they will be judged. Others because they fear the perpetrators or are uncertain about what constitutes crime, consent and sexual exploitation.

The report, Old Enough To Know Better?: Why sexually exploited teenagers are being overlooked, also found that of the cases reported to the police, fewer than 1 in 5 resulted in a charge or summons.

Older teenagers who have experienced sexual exploitation face huge obstacles in getting the protection and help they need. Despite their being more vulnerable than other age groups, there is often less protection and support available because they are seen as being ‘old enough to know better’ because they have reached the age of consent. As a result, they are often blamed for putting themselves in risky situations even when they have been specifically targeted and groomed through the use of drugs and alcohol.

The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to make sure that police have the means they need to protect 16 and 17 year olds from sexual exploitation and that consent to take drugs and drink alcohol is never confused with consent to engage in sexual acts.

It is also vital that the Government recognises vulnerable young people at this age, including those in care, recovering from trauma and those with mental health and learning disabilities, as being particularly at risk of sexual exploitation by adults.

All 16 and 17 year old victims of sexual crimes must get access to the appropriate therapeutic or mental health support they need in order to recover from this horrific abuse. And have it continue as needed as they move into adulthood.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

‘Too many children are being left to suffer sexual exploitation in silence. Despite 16 and 17 year olds being at the highest risk, they often receive the least support. Dangerous inconsistencies in the law and services need to be changed. These young people are still children and the Government must make sure that the police and other agencies have the means they need in order to keep them safe.’

The Children’s Society revealed in its Seriously Awkward campaign, launched earlier in the year, that too often 16 and 17 year olds are being let down by the law and do not receive basic protection to keep them safe and healthy because of their age and the misperception that they are old enough to look after themselves.

Through Young Eyes

Through Young Eyes

How do we put children at the centre of the debate about child poverty? How can you start a conversation with young people about an issue as difficult as “poverty” and help them to speak out?

You may have heard about The Children’s Commission on Poverty, supported by The Children’s Society, which has brought together 15 young people across the country to uncover the realities of poverty.

The Children’s Commission on Poverty is a bold attempt to understand what poverty looks like through young eyes. Watch Jim and Larissa from The Children’s Society, who have been supporting the young commissioners, and hear how the commission is putting children at the centre of the debate on poverty.

Click here to see how it works

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Jim and Larissa will be helping young people up and down the country, to make their views heard so that politicians, the media and the general public will take notice.

In the months to come, you’ll be hearing stories from young people and the ways you can support them to create lasting change.

Many thanks,
Gavin
Gavin Thomson
Campaigns Team
The Children’s Society

Fair and Square: From the Children’s Society

Children's Society - Fair & Square

Your campaigning works – the government’s own advisors have today recognised that 700,000 children from poor working families aren’t allowed free school meals and cannot afford to pay for them. They say these children are sometimes going hungry and things should change.

The Government has still not promised to change things, but it has promised to ‘investigate’. Now is the time for us to put pressure on the government to make them listen to their own advisors and ensure that ALL children in poverty receive Free School Meals.

Email your MP now to ask them to speak up.

http://action.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare

With changes to the benefits system coming in the autumn, the government has to make a decision soon. With the end of term approaching, parents will be starting to worry about how to pay for food when school starts again.

Now’s the time to speak up.

Best Wishes,

Gavin Thomson
Campaigns Team
The Children’s Society