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Vulnerable children ‘being left without help’

Tens of thousands of vulnerable children in England are not getting the help they need because they are not at crisis point, a charity has warned.

A report by Action for Children estimates 140,000 youngsters referred to social services over concerns including abuse and neglect do not meet the threshold for statutory social care and are not referred to early help services, such as children’s centres or domestic violence programmes, after their cases are closed.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Our report turns a spotlight on the thousands of families up and down the country who are not getting help, despite concerns having been raised about the welfare of a child.

“Social care can’t just be there for when a family is in meltdown.

“Every day too many children’s lives are overshadowed by drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence and neglect – a toxic recipe for all kinds of problems now and in later life.

“Punishing savings targets have given local authorities no option but to drastically shrink or abandon services, including family support, leaving large numbers of children on the fringes of social care without the help they need.

“We are missing opportunities to help these children and their families at an early stage.”

In the report, Action for Children said it sent Freedom of Information requests to 152 local authorities in England.

It asked how many children had their case closed after assessment and whether they were referred to early help after their case was closed.

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, and said the report “rightly recognises the increased pressures” facing local authorities.

“As a result of funding cuts and huge increases in demand for services, the reality is that services for the care and protection of vulnerable children are now, in many areas, being pushed to breaking point,” he said.

“The number of referrals to local authority children’s services has increased by almost 9% over the past decade, while the number of children placed on a child protection plan as a result of those referrals has increased by more than 90%.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Councils will receive more than “200 billion for local services up to 2020 and spent nearly £8 billion last year on children’s social care but we want to help them do even more.

“Our £200 million Innovation Programme is helping councils develop new and better ways of delivering these services – this includes projects targeting children who have been referred and assessed multiple times without receiving support.”

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