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  1. ITV Report

Children's social care facing 'grave crisis', report finds

There is a "grave crisis" facing children's social care, a year-long inquiry has revealed.

Services across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to support children in need.

And a postcode lottery is determining whether youngsters are ultimately taken into care or not, the joint report by peers, MPs and The National Children's Bureau found.

Staff shortages mean local authorities are repeatedly having to target resources towards children who have already suffered abuse or neglect rather than helping families in need of additional support.

This makes it harder for social workers to engage with families before they have reached crisis point - by which time there may be no other option than for them to be taken into care.

The report also found:

90%
Of senior managers say they are finding it difficult to provide care they need
17%
Rise in number of children being taken into care in last four years
29%
Rise in children being deemed at risk of harm in last four years
Social services in some areas are only stepping in when families have already reached crisis point. Credit: PA

In some areas agency staff accounted for more than 40% of social workers.

The Inquiry also heard that too often children were not routinely involved in decisions about their own care.

And some did not even know why they were in foster care or residential care, rather than with their birth families.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau said: "There is a grave crisis facing children's social care, with services across the country finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their legal duty to support children in need.

"At a time when children's social care teams are having to deal with a a host of new pressures and challenges, from refugee children to online grooming, it is time the Government recognised that asking children's services to do more with less, ultimately results in misery for children and families."

Tim Loughton MP, co-chair of of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children told ITV News there is a great concern for vulnerable children in the UK.

"We must remember there are a large number of children who need help, who have come into the care system, that's increased by 17.5% since 2010.

"Yet the amount of money has not gone up and I'm concerned that those children are not getting the level of care that they need and deserve."

He also said recently children's services had never been an easy job but had recently taken on a new dimension.

He added: "Our Inquiry found there is huge variation in the way in which local authorities decide to support the most vulnerable children.

"I urge ministers to focus on realistic resourcing of all children's services...to look at ways to tackle the stark variation in standards across the country."