Family finance difficulties lead to rise in neglect of children

A rise in neglect of children has been noted by East Sussex County Council as more families experience financial difficulties.east_sussex_county_council_web

An increasing number of children are in need of help and protection at the same time as more older people need social care … and these are just two of the issues facing the council as it struggles to fund services and looks at making further budget cuts.

A report to cabinet which meets on Tuesday (July 17) says more reductions in Government funding and increasing demand mean the council should start drawing up a ‘core offer’.

This is described as being the best service offer it is likely to be able to afford.

“It will fulfil our duties, offer support to those most in need, preserve some level of early help and prevention and assist with the economic development of the county,” says a report to cabinet.

Fundamental

“There are many variables, but we may reach this level of service by the end of 2020/21, and there is no guarantee that we will have sufficient resources to deliver even the core offer sustainably beyond that date unless the Government addresses our fundamental funding issues.”

Some of the issues facing the council are:

  • Increasing demand for adult social care as a result of the growth in the proportion of older people and complexity of their needs.
  • Rising number of children in need of help and protection due to an increase in families experiencing financial difficulties leading to neglect and a rise in child exploitation through drug related and other behaviours.
  • Underperforming East Sussex economy in comparison with the rest of the South East.
  • Unachievable home ownership for many because of the affordability gap between house prices and wages.

East Sussex County Council has cut £129m from its budget since 2010.

The report says: “This has meant significant impacts in community-based adult social care services, in assessment and care management staffing levels, in family centres, in the universal youth service offer, in the libraries and cultural offer and the amount spent on the highways network and the public realm.

“The scale of the savings the council has needed to make to date and the continued pressure on budgets in the future mean that, despite continuing commitment to maximise efficiency and generate income, it will have to concentrate services on those in most urgent need, and will not be able to maintain a comprehensive offer of universal services to all residents.”

The report to cabinet says that with so much taken out of the county budget and with still more to save it needs to articulate a core offer of the realistic level of service it must provide, not merely to meet statutory duties to meet real local need.

“It will need to include an element of early intervention and prevention to prevent an escalation of urgent need and more expensive interventions.

“It will also include work to support the economy of the county – helping to ensure that local people have access to well paid, high quality employment is one of the most important things we can do to build resilience and reduce dependency on public services.”

If agreed by cabinet the core offer will be further defined and costed over the summer and used as the basis for business and financial planning in the next three years.

Once defined the council would aim to ensure the public and businesses were aware of it and be engaged in a discussion about it.

The report to cabinet says the council will need to encourage and support behaviour change in its communities which will help to deliver positive outcomes for the county and create resilience in places where the council can no longer step in.

To read more about this issue see item five on the cabinet agenda on the East Sussex County Council website.

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