This week, the Peterborough Telegraph reported on the crisis facing children’s services in our city, as news broke that more children in Peterborough are in care than any other time in recorded history, writes MP for Peterborough Lisa Forbes in her weekly column.
The Annual Corporate Parenting Committee Report states that there are 380 children currently in care across the city, which is above the ‘crisis’ number of 350 that the council was warned about years ago.
The amount of children in care both locally and nationally is increasing exponentially and they have been failed by nine years of slash and burn austerity from successive Conservative governments, despite the best efforts from social care workers and services that deserve proper funding and support.
This year, the Local Government Association have confirmed that vulnerable children have been left by the wayside by the Tories. They’ve revealed that there is a massive £1.4bn funding gap in children’s social care, with councils already spending over their budgets last year to try and keep every child safe.
The Spending Review pledge of £1.5bn (£500m of which is optional through council tax increases) for social care won’t even begin to address the structural issues that face our services.
This is because the money will be split between adult and children’s care, meaning that vulnerable adults are being pitted against vulnerable children without either sector having enough money to address this huge funding gap.
Children’s services alone need £1.4bn, and until the Government commits to that, they are failing vulnerable children in Peterborough and across the country.
The Government’s solution is nothing but a sticking plaster. These aren’t just my words, but the words of the British Association of Social Workers, who also claimed it was “concerning that there’s no specific mention of addressing the massive hole in public sector funding for children’s services” in the Spending Review, despite MPs from all parties urging the Government to combat this head-on in the past.
With the number of children in care rising year on year, why is it that 60 per cent of local authority budgets have been cut in the last nine years of Conservative rule? Everybody in the sector knows this is totally unsustainable and the only way to solve the problem is to commit to genuine, long-term investment that plugs the funding gap.
Labour is the only party willing to fully support our local services, so that vulnerable children, social care providers and our councils no longer pay the price for Tory austerity. We must start listening to experts and providers in the sector, who for years have slammed the Government’s piecemeal offerings and missed opportunities.
With more children in Peterborough in care than ever before, the situation has never been more urgent. The Government needs to show leadership and start stumping up the money needed to protect vulnerable children in our city.
Ultimately, I believe that it’s only the Labour Party who have the courage and political will to do so.