Response to survey showing child protection thresholds rising 'due to budget pressures'
In response to the findings of the survey of frontline social workers carried out on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC), Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘We have read with concern the findings of the survey which found that thresholds for qualifying as a "child in need" had risen over the last three years and that the majority of social workers feel that financial considerations are a key factor when decisions are being made on whether to offer early help to vulnerable children. The survey also found that 45 per cent of social workers believe that financial considerations come into play when decisions are made about whether a care order should be given.
‘While these figures are of great concern, they are also of little surprise. Within fostering, we have been arguing for some years that decisions are being too predicated on what is best for the budget rather than what is best for the child. That is why, for example, in our England national fostering stocktake submission, we called for placement decision making to be moved from the business or finance teams of a local authority to the children’s teams. Money must not dictate where a child is placed – instead meeting the needs of that child must always take priority.
‘We have also been hearing for some time that the needs of children coming into care are becoming increasingly complex. This is inevitable given that the rising thresholds means many children are remaining in settings which are exposing them to trauma or neglect for longer periods of time. What is worrying is that while the needs of fostered children and young people are on the increase, the amount of funding available to support foster carers and to offer therapeutic input is being whittled away. The governments of the UK must ensure that the services that fostered children and young people need access to are properly resourced.
‘We would echo the words of former children’s minister Tim Loughton, who chairs the APPGC: "There is now a very real fear that intervention for an increasing number of children is being determined not by vulnerability and threat of harm but by finances and availability of support." We also agree with him that this is a false economy – money spent now on some of our most vulnerable children will save us money in the future, but also ensure that this generation of children and young people get the input and support they deserve and desperately need.’