The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has published an updated study on childhood vulnerability for 2018. The report details the shocking statistic that 2 million children in England live in families with complex social needs, and of these 1.6 million children receive no recognised programme of additional support. The study claims that the current welfare system leaves huge numbers of children and their families to fend for themselves, and that only when the situation has got out of hand and crisis point is reached does any more active intervention take place.
The report goes on to highlight what is referred to as the “toxic trio” of factors which can have damaging consequences for the wellbeing of children. These are:
- Domestic violence and abuse within the household
- Parental drug or alcohol misuse
- Parental mental health issues
The research estimates that 100,000 children (0.9% of all children in England) live in a household where an adult faces all three toxic trio issues to a severe extent, whilst 420,000 children (3.6% of all children in England) live in a household where an adult faces all three issues to a moderate to severe extent. Altogether an estimated 2.1 million children live alongside an adult facing at least one of these issues, but even this figure is certain to be an underestimation. The research only consulted one adult per household, so even if this adult had no such issues to deal with there is no guarantee that another adult in the family did not suffer in some way.
The Vulnerability Report states that currently 85% of local authority spending on children’s services goes to those deemed to be “in need”. Their analysis claims that there are a further 1.6 million disadvantaged children who receive no structured support at all, so clearly there is a huge black hole in the resources available to help these vulnerable children.
The current level of “crisis” intervention services is unaffordable and often disproportionate, had some form of lower level help been available earlier. It costs an estimated £55k per year to support a child in care, or £100,000 to send a teenager to a Young Offenders Institution, and in many instances much of this could have been saved had social services been able to intervene earlier and at a lower level of care.
The report states that, unfortunately, it is the lower level preventive services which have been most affected by government budget cuts. Funding for early intervention and youth services has reduced by 60% since 2010, yet this sort of help can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of more acute services. And it is this support which is often in the child’s best interests.
As Barack Obama once said – money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.
To read the Children’s Commissioner Vulnerability Report in full go to: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/publication/childrens-commissioner-vulnerability-report-2018/
The Children and Family Law departments at Bretherton Law have been helping families in Hertfordshire for over 50 years, offering professional, experienced and sympathetic advice to those in need. We are proud to be accredited by the Law Society in Family and Children Law, and are members of Resolution, the organisation representing family lawyers and other professionals in the field. We offer legal aid when available.
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