Children England's submission to the Treasury budget consultation, September 2017

Protecting children from abuse and neglect is one of the most important responsibilities we have – as a society and as citizens in a democracy. It is the responsibility of central government to ensure our taxes are distributed fairly so that each area of the country can afford to meet the needs of its most vulnerable citizens who can have no wealth of their own – children. As Children England’s briefing outlines, current government policy is leaving local authorities with a £2 billion funding shortfall for children’s social care even whilst the number of children and families reaching crisis point is rising, and councils are struggling to fulfil their statutory duties to children in need. With the Revenue Support Grant set to be cut off by 2020, councils must not be left to rely on the fluctuations of local business rate retention and council tax revenue to fund children’s social care: it’s simply not sustainable and puts children in the most deprived areas in danger of falling through a stretched-to-breaking safety net.

Whatever happens more widely in the government’s Budget deliberations on future council finance, we believe there is a long term need to ‘design in’ the fair distribution of the nation’s public money to meet the social care needs of children, through the creation a new funding formula. This formula should be used to calculate 3-5 year grant allocations to each local authority, based on three key factors:

  • Current and projected child population
  • Disabled children and young carers
  • Deprivation indices for the area

This is focussed on the creation of a reliable and consistent mechanism for a fair distribution of resources to every council that is accountable for meeting child welfare duties under the Children Act 1989. Such a formula would ensure that however much a council is allocated through it, it would constitute a reliable, predictable ‘core’ income source for their community services for children and families in the medium term. It would be for those councils to determine the best way to spend those funds in relation to the particular and diverse needs among families in their local area, and indeed the extent to which other locally-generated income should be used to add to children’s formula grant spending. Essentially, while the LGA is saying the Budget should allocate £2bn more, a "Children Act funding formula" would determine how to share it out.