THE SPECIALIST staff who work in the child protection and welfare sectors are, in many respects, the unsung heroes of society. The very nature of their work, dealing with the most vulnerable children whose anonymity is protected by law, means they invariably do not receive the praise and plaudits that they deserve.
Yet, while these care professionals are epitomised by the national recognition that has now been bestowed upon Leeds City Council amongst others, public and political perception is invariably shaped by the very small number of occurrences when a Serious Case Review is demanded and the outcome then questions decision-making protocols. This can be misleading.
For, while the public will never know the number of vulnerable children whose lives, and futures, have been – and continue to be – transformed by local authorities and partner agencies, they should know that funding for these services is not keeping pace with record demand, not least because councils would rather intervene as a precaution to mitigate against the possibility of future censure.
This much is clear after it emerged that eight children a day were taken into a care in the region last year – each new neglect case adding to the pressures on councils at a time when English local authorities have had to contend with an unprecedented funding squeeze since 2010.
With the Local Government Association now suggesting that councils need an additional £3bn by 2025 just to keep these services running at current levels, it is a warning that Ministers must heed before their political negligence compromises the care of at-risk children. Raising council tax is not an option – town halls are already using all available powers to raise money to pay for the care of the elderly – so the onus, therefore, is on the Government to come up with a solution after Theresa May suggested that austerity was, in fact, over.
Try telling that, Prime Minister, to all those care staff who have not let their professional standards drop in spite of their growing workload and a distinct lack of national recognition.