A comprehensive new report suggests that child protection costs have risen to the point that they threaten councils' financial stability. With local authorities already struggling to cover the increasing costs of elderly care, it’s vital that solutions are found. Fortunately, experts believe that engaging with families before they enter the care system could significantly reduce expenses.
The rising cost of child services
The Care Crisis Review, published by Family Rights Group, found that applications for care proceedings in England and Wales hit record levels in 2017. This is just one trend that is leading to the rise of children in care and a funding shortfall which former Director of Children’s Services at Leeds City Council Nigel Richardson says has grown to £2bn.
If these trends are allowed to continue, it could mean a tipping point for council budgets. Already an overspend on children’s social services has pushed Somerset Council close to bankruptcy – so it’s essential that they receive all the support necessary to solve this problem.
The problem of risk aversion
One such issue flagged by Care Crisis Review is that of “risk aversion” in the social services. A major factor in this mindset is the culture of blame that has seen overstretched social workers publicly shamed for mistakes and oversights.
It may be that councils can help combat this with awareness campaigns. Helping people to understand the valuable work done by social services, and the pressures they face, should improve public attitudes. Such an approach could even be twinned with efforts to encourage volunteers to join community support networks.
Getting better value from engagement
Another important conclusion reached in the review is that local authorities could also make savings by supporting at risk families before they enter the point of care, as shown by Leeds Council. A £1m investment to support at-risk families successfully reduced the number of children going into care and saved the council £4m.
Councils must also ensure that residents cover their share of these costs. That means fine-tuning payment systems so that business rates and council tax payments are collected consistently and efficiently. For more information about how Dukes Bailiffs ethical debt collection services can help, contact our centre manager today.