An impending crisis of children suffering from abuse, neglect and poverty has been exposed, with growing numbers of young people being taken into custody in some of England’s most deprived communities during the pandemic.
A Guardian study of the state of childcare over the past 18 months has revealed a sharp surge in social service referrals during the lockdown, as well as rising mental health support costs and a steep backlog in family courts, with some councils falling below the weight of the additional work that the coronavirus brings with it.
Some local authorities are expected to raise up to $ 12 million this year.
Self-isolation and home schooling have placed families under increased financial pressure from unemployment or lost wages, as well as from inflammatory mental health problems and addiction problems. Successive lockdowns have exacerbated domestic violence and allowed safety concerns for children and adolescents to go undetected as schools and some childcare facilities had to close.
Research and interviews with leaders of children’s charities across England have shown:
In Middlesbrough, the lowest income community in England, the number of children referred to social services has increased by 40% over the past year.
Rochdale, Greater Manchester, ranked 15th on the state’s Multiple Deprivation Index, received 420 referrals to social childcare in July this year, 35% more than in July 2019 when its 310 was its early support hub with 1,310 contacts in July.
In hull, there has been a 19% increase in the number of “troubled families” in need of additional support over the past year, while the number of children in care has increased by 9%. A shortage of foster families resulted in 55 cared-for children in the city moving between seven or more places between June 2020 and June 2021.
Knowsley, In Merseyside, the second most low-income community in England, reports of domestic violence increased by 26% over the past year and the number of children and adolescents exploited as criminals increased.
In London, there was a shortage of 500 nursing places, forcing councils to compete for the placement of private firms that charge twice the municipal fees.
It comes when the panel representing the directors of children’s services in England called on the government to urgently reform the “unwieldy, broken and complex system” that is abandoning some of the most vulnerable children in society, despite private housing for some Children now cost nearly £ 10,000 a week.
“I don’t know where we’re going to save as council because we’re dependent on the brass needles” Paul Marshall, Director of Children’s Services in Manchester “
The Children’s Service Directors Association told the government-commissioned Child Welfare Review that the cost of such placement was “deeply worrying” and “financially problematic”. She wants an upper limit for the fees of private providers who save “millions in costs” and “provide more intensive support earlier, closer to the communities in which children grow up”.
In June, Josh MacAlister, director of child welfare review, described the childcare system as “a tower of jenga held together by Sellotape.”
The deterioration in services has resulted in more children in need of highly specialized – and expensive – psychological support. Gateshead in North East England, which has seen an 8 percent increase in childcare since 2019, pays £ 9,800 per week to place two children, which adds up to more than £ 1 million per year for the couple.
Caroline O’Neill, director of childcare at Gateshead, said: “The significant and rising costs of home and care care for children are putting unsustainable financial pressure on local authorities. Care must be reformed, and investments to increase capacity are urgently needed. “
In Birmingham, in addition to a 15% year-on-year increase in the number of cases, the council currently has 35 children in need of psychological care for more than £ 5,000 a week, compared to 20 children in June 2020.
Andy Couldrick, chief executive officer of the Birmingham Children’s Trust, said that at a time when austerity slashed budgets, those costs have caused services that keep children away from care to suffer the most. “If you [the services] disappear, it’s like pounding a hole in a dam, ”he said. “The pressure is enormous.”
North East Lincolnshire Council projects a £ 11.8 million surplus for children’s services, in part due to the cost of evicting children from the area due to a lack of local space.
In Liverpool, the number of children entering the care system for parental neglect or alcohol abuse has almost doubled over the past year, according to Steve Reddy, the city’s childcare director. It now has 1,535 children in care, an increase of 28% since 2018 – which, according to Reddy, is largely due to “poverty, deprivation and adverse childhood experiences of the parents”.
Jayne Ivory, Blackburn’s director of childcare along with Darwen, said there has been a recent trend for “large groups of brothers and sisters to be looked after” because of “impaired parenting, perhaps substance abuse.”
She said, “Since children don’t go to school as often or reliably, even though vulnerable children have been attending all the time, it has been more difficult for families who may not have the motivation to take their children to school … point where we think : enough is enough, we have to take care of them. “
She said child care was taking longer than ever due to delays in the court system, with cases now taking 56 weeks instead of 32 weeks.
In nearby Manchester, court delays have reached a year, causing more anxiety among children. Paul Marshall, Manchester’s director of children’s services, urged the government to allocate more funds to help vulnerable children, noting that Manchester City Council has suffered 40% cuts in central government grants since 2010.
“If we don’t reach a proper deal that is realistic and achievable, I don’t know where we as the Council will save because we are basically down,” he said. “The pantry is empty.”
A government spokesman said: “During the pandemic, we have made the safety of vulnerable children a priority by investing in the frontline charities that support them directly by providing billions in more funding to councils and schools, kindergartens and colleges for keep these kids open.
“We have increased the funding council accessible to the provision of services, including children’s services, to more than £ 51 billion. We are also donating £ 24 million to a regional child welfare recovery fund that aims to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children. “
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