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Nurses demand ‘lifeline’ funding for children’s social care

A coalition of public health nurses, charities and councils has written an open letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, urging him to commit additional money towards children’s social care before services are “pushed to the brink”.

The 29 organisations, which includes the Schools and Public Health Nurses Association and the Institute of Health Visiting, have warned that, without additional funding, local councils may not be able to provide vital support to vulnerable children.

“We are urging you to provide the funding that children’s social care desperately needs”

Coalition letter

The letter sent yesterday warned that local councils faced “unprecedented pressures” due to financial challenges and “record numbers” of children needing help.

It comes as new figures have shown that, in March 2023, there were 83,840 looked after children in England.

“More and more of council budgets now cover the rising cost of children’s social care,” the coalition warned in the letter.

Children’s social care involves services that are led by social workers, such as child protection, child in need, looked after children and early help services.

All of these services, commissioned by local authorities, work closely with health visiting and school nursing services.

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However, the Institute of Health Visiting’s annual survey, published earlier this year, warned that the threshold for children’s social care was growing so much that nurses were having to take on more of the caseload.

Some health visitors reported that the threshold was now so high that they felt more like social workers who were having to deal with cases at crisis point, instead of delivering care centred around prevention.

The coalition letter warned that current children’s social care budgets only went towards “children at the highest risk”.

It said: “[This means] there is not enough to intervene early and provide that lifeline of support for children and families when they first need help.

“They shouldn’t have to wait until things get worse.”

Campaigners urged the chancellor to put forward additional funding in this week’s autumn statement, to give councils the money they need to support children’s social care.

The letter said: “In the autumn statement, we are urging you to provide the funding that children’s social care desperately needs and stabilise the children’s social care system before it is pushed to the brink.

“Without this, there is a genuine fear that councils will not be able to provide the critical care and support that children rely on every day.”

Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association, which is chairing coalition, said: “For some time now, councils, charities, those with lived experience and other voices from the sector, have been warning of the serious challenges facing children’s social care.

“Councils are doing everything they can to provide the vital care and support our vulnerable children need and deserve.

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“However, there is a real risk that services could be pushed to the brink, unless the chancellor acts in the autumn statement and delivers a lifeline of financial support for children’s social care.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are transforming the children’s social care system to focus on more early support for families, reducing the need for crisis response at a later stage.”

The department said it was investing £259m “to support local authorities to create more placements for children in high-quality and safe homes”.

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