The Children’s Society’s recent ‘Crumbling Futures’ report raises concerns that vulnerable 16- and 17-year olds are being let down by the law. Too often, 16- and 17-year olds are treated like adults and are not afforded the additional protections given in law to younger children.
This report raises further concerns over young people dealing with complex issues such as poverty and mental health problems. The government has stated that it is ‘interested’ in the recommendations in the report.
We need to do more to help protect vulnerable children and young people locally and across the country. At the last General Election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to refocus social care to work with families in local communities to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care. It also committed to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy and to increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people.
On March 16, the current government announced plans to transform education for children with additional needs and to improve the experiences of children in alternative provision. The Children’s Society believes this review should be broader and I hope that the government will carefully consider and respond to these concerns.
The Children’s Society has further argued that the review must look at how support can be paid for in the context of declining financial resources given to local authorities. It is very concerning that the Local Government Association has found that children’s services are facing a £2 billion funding gap by 2020. Indeed, local authority spending on services for children and young people has fallen in real terms by almost £1 billion since 2012. Here in Liverpool, the council has recorded a near 8 per cent increase in the number of looked after children in the course of just 12 months, with increasingly complex cases of children with learning and physical disabilities.
Children’s services provide a lifeline to thousands of vulnerable children and families across the country and it is incredibly worrying that funding has fallen so dramatically. I will continue to press for action to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children, including 16- and 17-year olds.