12 Children’s Services Directors in the north-east have reported in the North East Regional Care Report on “shameful” levels of poverty, dramatic rises in child protection intervention and steep increases in the number of children in care.
“I’ve worked in a number of local authorities all over the country, but I’ve never worked anywhere where poverty is as bad and life chances so poor.” Said one of the Directors in Children Services.
Since 2009, the region has seen a 77% increase in its care population. It is no coincidence that for instance in Redcar And Cleveland, council funding was stripped back by over £100m since 2009 at the cost of over 1000 employees. Child poverty rates that were below the UK average five years ago are now the second highest of any nation. The Tories have simply neglected social care and child poverty.
What the Tories have been doing is creating beauty contests that force weakened councils to bid for funds they should already have been receiving for over a decade. But the funding is ring fenced.
While councils “bid” for funding to finance transport and infrastructural vanity projects, social care support continues to be sidelined. The North East is desperate for rounded financial support to address the glaring social issues that worsen year on year and have an effect on the fabric of society including poor living standards, rising crime, anti social behaviour, mental health issues, neglect, domestic abuse and suicide.
In-work poverty also means that working families have to be propped up with tax credits and housing benefits. Many families are struggling with the cost of living, decent housing and parental support. And with unemployment rocketing, the government plans to take £20 per week out of the economy, from every person on Universal Credit in October. This cannot continue.
All the while Conservatives continue to push their “Levelling Up” soundbites. Remember the Northern Powerhouse? These are hollow marketing terms that are meaningless, designed to woo voters. Boris Johnson promised to “fix” the broken system two years ago but has since brought delay upon delay over a social care plan, announcing it will now come before the end of the year. This delay even prompted a cross party Future Social Care Coalition in Westminster to come up with a plan in June for the Prime Minister to “Get on With It”. But instead of dealing with and facing up to the issues the Prime Minister is continually called out for lying and misleading from the dispatch box, even prompting the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to write to him to correct the public information.
The North East Regional Care Report published on July 28 from the 12 Directors of Children Services makes six recommendation
- Early help – there is a need for a shift towards a more flexible approach to social care support with well-resourced early help provision.
- Partnerships and integration – national policy needs to drive more integrated working between partners, with a statutory duty for organisations to collaborate in order to better meet the needs of children.
- Care markets – the significant and increasing cost of children’s residential care and foster care is placing financial pressure on local authorities. Reform is needed in how care is provided, with investment to increase capacity.
- Ofsted regulatory framework – the needs of young people must be a clearer driver for regulation and a review of the regulatory framework is required.
- Workforce – sufficient, well-trained staff are needed, with more fluid roles to allow for flexibility across agencies and professions.
- Court systems and family justice – stronger arrangements are needed for collaboration across the courts system to enable greater consistency and cultural change.
Until a plan is delivered by the government backed up with the funding, children and families in the North East will continue to be the victims of a failed system that falls short of demands.
To compound the deepening concern over finances in Redcar And Cleveland, they were recently left £5m short in their finances after the government, who said they would cover the cyber attack costs, only provided less than half of the loss. As well as the strains on Adult and Children services – bin collections, library services, highway works and neighbourhood services continue to be under-resourced and are failing to meet demands when needed. There is no contingency funding being drawn down to keep services functioning when there are staff shortages.
The Council Leader of Redcar And Cleveland Mary Lanigan from Loftus, who received a 31% pay rise in April, declared she was “pleased with the government” in relation to the cyber funding.
Cllr Carl Quartermain