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Predictions set out in the Phase 3 research published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) have been confirmed in their latest report released this month.
The Phase 4 report on ‘Safeguarding Pressures Research’ has shown continued increases in children and young people requiring children’s social care and the reasons behind this. While findings have shown continuing efforts across local authorities in re-designing children’s services to cope with funding cuts, the report concluded that many of the factors which cause increases in demand for services are outside of their immediate control. 

Following ADCS’s request for data, 102 of the 152 local authorities in England responded, providing information about changes to safeguarding activities within their area for the year ending 31 March 2014. This was compared to the first two phases of research commissioned by ADCS in 2010 and 2012. 

Approx. £2.3m initial contacts made to children's social care in 2013-14

Nearly two thirds of the 88 authorities providing data on referrals had experienced an increase, however the rise in initial contacts was recorded at a much steeper rate. Approximately 2.3m initial contacts were made to children’s social care in 2013-14. It is noted that while changes to front door arrangements that are managed locally can affect the accuracy of recording initial contacts on a national scale, the figures do account for the significant volume of ‘hidden’ work pre-referral.

76% of all respondents reported changes in needs and demands from adolescents, with a particular increase in those missing or at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

79% of 76 authorities re-designing or abolishing Early Help Services

Of the 76 authorities that provided information on Early Help Services, 79% reported that they were re-designing more targeted services or in, some cases, abolishing services altogether due to funding pressures. 

Yet the need for preventative services is apparent throughout the report, particularly on the subject of working in partnership to tackle the prevalence and impact of domestic abuse, parental mental health, parental substance misuse and CSE. The report makes reference to Brandon et al (2008) research, which found the need for “individually tailored services that extend into their adulthood which can address root causes and not just respond, or fail to respond to their distress.” 

The need for this approach was evident in responses received from local authorities, one of which said: “Numbers of children coming into care will continue to rise unless a difference is made to the deprivation and dependency on alcohol and drugs, and the ability of local services to intervene at an early level.” 

ADCS also took into account research released by Action for Children in 2013, which reported the significant volume of changes made, including “98 Acts of Parliament affecting children passed since 1987, and more than 400 different initiatives, funding streams, legislation, guidance and organisational changes to services affecting children over the past 21 years.” 

However, positivity remains about the way local authorities have attempted to manage such changes within the complex arena of social care and will continue to do so in the face of further changes anticipated over the next couple of years, whatever the outcome of the General Election. 

Staff training will play a key part in this, along with efforts to recruit and retain social workers. Two thirds of local authorities are suffering from high staff turnover and difficulty recruiting experienced social workers, with many now recruiting agency staff. It was reported that the higher wages offered by agencies is a more attractive option for social workers.  

27 local authorities spend £17.5m supporting families with no recourse to public funds

On the subject of budgets, some authorities reported facing reductions of 30-40% over a short period. Despite efforts to protect budgets in children’s social care by making reductions in other areas, such as administration or Early Help Services, authorities realised that this would eventually impact core social care activity.

Funding Special Guardianship Orders and supporting families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) were also highlighted issues for local authorities; 27 of which reported a spend of £17.5m supporting families with NRPF.

Emerging pressures such as Staying Put foster care arrangements, SEND reforms and cuts made to other public agencies, are predicted to impact future services, particularly preventative services.  

In concluding that significant increases in safeguarding activity have been identified, the report also draws attention to the fact that the range of factors contributing to this, including policy, social, economic and demographic, present the same issues as those raised four years ago. 

To view the full series of reports, visit 

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Philip Brocklehurst, 23 November 2014, 03:36 PM
Hi Folks,

As one of the authors of the above report I was pleased to see you highlighting it, and to see your clear illustrations of some of the key points. Did you produce any more of these? I've also flagged your article on my blog at


Sanctuary Social Care, 24 November 2014, 12:14 PM
Hi Philip,

Thanks very much for your comments and for sharing this on your blog. It’s great to hear from you as one of the authors of the report.

We hope the illustrations help to highlight some of the key findings of the report, which reflect the work and efforts of so many in social work.

Many thanks,
Sanctuary Social Care
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