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Health Health

Ensure that councils provide consistency of care for vulnerable children

Last updated: 03:33pm 21 June 2019

We will ensure that councils provide consistency of care…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.73

Our verdict

The 2018 Children’s Commissioner’s annual study of childhood vulnerability in England found that in addition to the 570,000 children and young people in families receiving recognised support, there are a further 1.6 million children in families with complex needs for which there is no national established, recognised form of support. This policy is a promise to ensure all councils are providing consistency of care for vulnerable children.

We note in a related policy, “Review support for Children in Need“, that the government are in the process of looking at ways to address the educational underperformance of “children in need” (as defined in the Children Act 1989). But this policy pledge is broader than education, promising “consistency of care”.

The Children’s Commissioner’s report highlights an enormous gap between the number of vulnerable children and the number who are actually receiving support. Having looked at the evidence on various strategies to address that, the report suggests that a narrow focus on education or on “crisis services” will not solve the problem.

“Instead, we should focus on expanding the provision of lower-level services which support children and families, making them routine to access. We would like to see the Government have as strong a focus on children’s emotional well-being as they do on their exam results.”

So an effort by government to provide “consistency of care” would require increased spending on those “lower-level services”. And yet a June 2018 report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found:

“funding on non-statutory, preventative and early intervention services for children, as well as youth services funding, has reduced by 60% since 2010”

Such a significant reduction in funding runs contrary to the stated aim of this policy. We have not found evidence of any serious attempt to turn around that funding shortfall, or any other activity promoting “consistency of care”, so we’re marking this as ‘not started’. We’ll keep tracking, so follow this policy for updates.

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