A recent Audit Scotland report warned Scotland faces continued austerity throughout the public sector with the threat of cuts, mergers and increased charges for services. As a coalition of leading independent and third sector providers, we are concerned by the threat of potential funding cuts to vital children’s services across local authorities in Scotland and have launched a campaign to protect them.
As local authorities consult on their budget proposals, the potential to cut services is set against a backdrop of demand for children’s services being at their highest since 1981. The latest figures show 16,248 children are currently looked after by local authorities, a figure that has increased each year since 2001.
There has also been a four-fold increase of Scots with additional support needs since 2002 – there are now 118,034. This week it was reported that more than half Scotland’s local authorities are predicting overspends on their current social work budgets that add up to more than £35 million. A key contributor to this is the rising cost of caring for vulnerable children.
Local authorities are being required to achieve more with less, and this increases the barriers children’s services departments face in delivering the best outcomes for vulnerable young people. In fact, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently commented: “We are slowly but inexorably creating a more divided society,” effectively cutting off those who require the most support and creating a lost generation whose cost to society in the long term will far outweigh any public sector cuts.
Cutting already diminished resources is not an option and we urge local authorities to protect services for children and young people, using the current financial environment as an opportunity to explore the potential for public service reform and the delivery of services in the most efficient manner.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:
Spark of Genius
Who Cares? Scotland
Falkland House School