At Education Questions today (15th June) Emma warned the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson MP that local councils no longer had the resources to make sure children’s social services were protecting children as effectively as they could.
Emma told the House that cuts to local authorities’ budgets had been “disastrous” for local children’s services, and that the Independent Reviewing Officers appointed to monitor and review individual cases no longer had the resources to do so.
“Local authority cuts have had disastrous consequences for children’s social care services. Ofsted is now reporting that independent reviewing officers are so stretched that poor planning and delays for the most vulnerable children are going unchallenged. What will the Minister do to defend the service from further cuts?”
The national inspector Ofsted has recently published a series of reports in which IROs were claimed to be unable to carry out their role of making sure social services protect and support vulnerable children.
Council budgets were one of the areas worst hit by cuts under the Coalition Government, and it is likely that further cuts will be coming over the next five years. Overall, council budgets were cut by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2015. South Tyneside’s spending power was reduced by a quarter, or nearly £300 for every person living in the borough. In the last Parliament, Emma warned that the least advantaged areas were losing out most of all.
Responding to Emma’s question, the Children’s Minister said that “at a time when it has been difficult for local councils, good decisions have been made to protect spending on children’s safeguarding.” He said that the upcoming Education and Adoption Bill would help to improve services further.
The Minister also acknowledged Emma’s work on children’s issues in the last Parliament, admitting that these issues were “often missed at the local, as well as national, level.”
Speaking after Education Questions, Emma said:
“The Minister’s answer doesn’t add up – Ofsted’s reports show that budget pressures are having an effect on councils’ ability to care for vulnerable young people, and with further cuts on the way I am worried that the situation is about to get even worse.
“The Minister was right about one thing though: these are very difficult times for local authorities, and that’s why the Government needs to stop unfairly imposing the biggest cuts on the areas with the greatest need.”