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



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:

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.