NATIONAL: Charity report says thousands of children not getting help they need

Action for Children says up to 140,000 youngsters don't meet the threshold for social care and are not referred to early help after their case is closed. Picture: PA
Action for Children says up to 140,000 youngsters don't meet the threshold for social care and are not referred to early help after their case is closed. Picture: PA

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THOUSANDS of children in England referred to social services over concerns including abuse and neglect are not getting the help they need, a charity has said.

Action for Children has warned that up to 140,000 youngsters do not meet the threshold for social care and are not referred to early help after their case is closed.

In their latest report, Revolving Door, the charity said vulnerable children not at crisis point are being left without help as cash-strapped councils are forced to shrink or abandon services.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: ‘Our report turns a spotlight on the thousands of families up and down the country who are not getting help, despite concerns having been raised about the welfare of a child.

‘Social care can’t just be there for when a family is in meltdown.

‘Every day too many children’s lives are overshadowed by drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence and neglect - a toxic recipe for all kinds of problems now and in later life.

‘Punishing savings targets have given local authorities no option but to drastically shrink or abandon services, including family support, leaving large numbers of children on the fringes of social care without the help they need.

‘We are missing opportunities to help these children and their families at an early stage.’

In the report, Action for Children said it sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 152 local authorities in England.

It asked how many children had their case closed after assessment, whether they were referred to early help after their case was closed, and what were the three most common concerns which prompted children to be referred to social care.

Responses show that in 2015-2016 184,500 children’s needs assessments were closed as ‘no further action’ as they did not meet the threshold for statutory services.

The charity said it estimated around one in four of these families were referred for early help services - such as children’s centres or domestic violence programmes - after their case was closed.

But an estimated 140,000 children did not meet the threshold for social care and were not referred to early help after their case was closed.

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, welcomed the report and said it ‘rightly recognises the increased pressures’ facing local authorities.

‘As a result of funding cuts and huge increases in demand for services, the reality is that services for the care and protection of vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point,’ he said.