Policy and practice Reports and research The Case for a Children Act Funding Formula Children England believes the case for a fair, sustainable funding mechanism for essential children’s services is too urgent and too acute to ignore. We propose the establishment of a Children Act Funding Formula, which would distribute national taxation to all authorities with duties under the Children Act 1989 according to the needs of children in their area. We call on the government to implement such a formula by 2020 at the latest. Download the full briefing -The case for a Children Act Funding Formula Summary 1. The rationale The Children Act 1989, created with genuine cross-party and cross-sector collaboration, was passed by the Conservative government, implemented in 1991, and has served as a widely respected and emulated model for modern children’s social care and protection legislation all over the world ever since. While the quality and strength of the legislation was (and remains) widely welcomed and respected, there has never been a clear corresponding mechanism to ensure a reliable distribution of public funds to the councils responsible for delivering on the duties the Act created. More recently, austerity policies followed by the government have fuelled an unsustainable cycle of poverty, both in families and the local services they need to thrive. Cuts of up to 40% in the Revenue Support Grant (often called the ‘formula grant’) from central to local government have driven councils to close universal services such as children’s centres and to raise thresholds for specialised help in order to prioritise those in most urgent need. Levels of poverty are strongly correlated to rates of neglect and abuse that result in children being placed in care. This means that in areas of the highest deprivation, the numbers of children classified as ‘in need’ are likely to be highest, and demands on the children’s social care sector correspondingly greatest. In light of this, central government’s intention with the Local Government Finance Bill (currently on hold) of cutting off the Revenue Support Grant completely by 2020 and leaving councils to rely on locally raised revenue is fundamentally flawed. While even wealthier local authorities would struggle to fund adequate children’s services from locally raised income, the poorest would face an impossible divergence between resources and demand. Across England, the need for children’s social care is rising. The National Audit Office’s 2016 report shows that there has been a 94% rise in the number of children on child protection plans over the last ten years, and care applications are continuing to rise month on month. Whilst the Local Government Association has identified a £2 billion gap in local authority funds by 2020 and the majority of local authorities admit they are struggling to fulfil their statutory duties to children, there is clearly a larger and longer-term problem looming if central leadership and responsibility is not taken for fully resourcing children’s social care. 2. The underpinning principles Equity and universality Enable full implementation of the Children Act 1989 Retain a mechanism to distribute national taxation fairly to children and families 3. The Formula itself The formula is based on three local authority-level factors: Current and projected child population Numbers of disabled children and young carers Multiple deprivation indices for the area It will be essential to weight the formula appropriately across these three areas. We are happy to co-ordinate expertise from the children’s voluntary sector to inform this stage of the development process. In order to be responsive to changes in local population but also provide authorities with the predictable core income they need to plan and commission services appropriately, we propose that it informs a grant period of three to five years. Data would be drawn from the following sources: Current and projected child population using ONS mid-year population estimates Young carers data gathered by the census for England and Wales Special Educational Needs data gathered annually by the Department for Education and available by local authority Children with disabilities using Disability Living Allowance data broken down by age and local authority English Indices of Deprivation from the Department for Communities and Local Government measuring various indicators of deprivation at a neighbourhood (Lower Layer Super-Output Area) level, with summaries available by Local Authority District level and Upper Tier Local Authority 4. What it's not It’s not ring fenced, means tested, bid for or ’performance managed’ from the centre It’s not based on variables that rely on professional assessments It’s not a replacement for other budgets / sources of funding 5. Making the Children Act Funding Formula a reality Children England invites all organisations working with or for children to endorse our briefing and join our call for the Children Act Funding Formula to be implemented by 2020 at the latest. Core funds distributed equitably across all local authorities would enable them to provide the full support and protection envisaged for children by the Children Act 1989 rather than having to make dangerous and damaging choices between essential early intervention and life-saving crisis intervention. We are extremely grateful to colleagues in member and non-member organisations who have shared their experience and expertise in the process of developing the idea of the Funding Formula. It is supported by a growing list of organisations and individuals from both the voluntary and statutory sectors: Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England David Holmes, CBE, Chief Executive, Family Action John Tizard, Independent strategic advisor Professor Paul Bywaters, University of Huddersfield Professor June Thoburn, Emeritus Professor, School of Social Work Mark Lee, Chief Executive, Together Trust Stephen Blunden, Chief Executive, Childhood First Norman Goodwin, Chief Executive, Adoption Northwest Jayne Stokes, Director of Development and External Affairs, Family Action Kevin Williams, Chief Executive, Fostering Network Mark Davis, Chief Executive, Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency Elizabeth Cooper, Operations Director, Pathfinders Childcare Ltd Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39 Alison Page, Chief Executive, Salford CVS Dr M E Atkinson, Director, Maggie Atkinson Consulting Ltd Liza Dresner, Director, Resources for Autism Jeremy Cripps, Chief Executive, Children North East Shane Ryan, Chief Executive, Working With Men Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, Become Mark Simms, Chief Executive, P3 Brendan O'Keefe, Managing Director, Epic CiC Ross Hendry, Chief Executive, Spurgeons Children's Charity Zillah Bingley, Chief Executive, Rainbow Trust Children's Charity Professor Jane Tunstill, Visiting Professor, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, Kings College London Donna Peach, Lecturer in Social Work, University of Salford Andrew Rome, Revolution Consulting Norma Hornby, MBE, Safeguarding Manager, Four Estates Chris Hollins, Chair, Third Sector Leeds Terri Fletcher, Director, Safety Net Andy Elvin, Chief Executive, TACT Maris Stratulis, England Manager, BASW England Celean Camp, Director, BASPCAN Iain Moore, Director of Business Development Rima Jakubauskas, Child and Family Therapist, Whole Step CiC Professor Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield Anna Stringer, Business Development Officer, After Adoption Lesley Hutchinson, Service Manager, Children North East Harvey Gallagher, Chief Executive, National Association of Fostering Providers Brigid Robinson, Managing Director, Coram Voice Katie Clarke, Director, Bringing Us Together Lisa Scott Keen, Assistant Manager, Pre-School Learning Alliance Gareth Walton, Social worker and consultant, Social Care Expert Solutions Professor Francesca Klug, Visiting Professor, London School of Economics Richard Servian, Registered Social Worker, Chair, BASW England Children & Families Policy, Practice & Education Group Louise Turnbull, Parenting Educator Ellen Broome, Chief Executive, Family and Childcare Trust Carmen Lindsay MBE, Chief Executive, Camberwell After School Project Ben McCall, Chief Executive, Doncaster Central Development Trust CiC Sally Young, Chief Executive, Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service Stephen Ashley, Project Leader, St Andrew's Play Association Rachel Burton, Student social worker Dominique Hamilton, Social Worker Brian Jones, Chief Executive, SENAD Group Fiona Walkingshaw, Child psychotherapist Click here to sign up in support of our proposal for a Children Act Funding Formula Read our related briefing Don't take child protection for granted, which raised awareness of the threat to funding for children's services and generated support for centralised distribution of taxes to local authorities to ensure all children are protected and supported, wherever they live in the country.