Revealed: How cuts have hit children's and youth services in Calderdale

How cuts have hit children's and youth services in Calderdale
How cuts have hit children's and youth services in Calderdale

Calderdale Borough Council has slashed spending on services for young people by more than 40 per cent over the last five years, as a leading charity warns of a "perfect storm" in child social services.

The Local Government Association has warned that children's services in England will face a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025, despite seeing a significant rise in demand.

This means councils are being forced to divert their limited funding away from preventative work, and into services for children at immediate risk of harm, they said.

Children's charity Barnardo's said the consequences of failures to step in early were clear to see.

“In every community, children face growing challenges, from knife crime and gangs, to cyberbullying and online grooming, to a crisis in mental health," said chief executive Javed Khan.

"Children are suffering from trauma, affecting their education, health and happiness, with lifelong impact."

But what does this mean for children in Calderdale?

Services for young people: Overall, Department for Education figures show spending on children's and youth services in Calderdale has seen a real-terms drop of 13 per cent over the last five years.

But within this, spending on services for young people – those aged 13-19, or up to 25 if they have learning difficulties – is down by 44 per cent.

Councils in England are legally required to provide a range of services for young people, including advice and support services for issues such as housing, employment and substance abuse, as well as recreational and educational services including youth clubs.

In 2012-13, this spending in Calderdale stood at the equivalent of £4.8 million in today's terms, adjusted for inflation.

By 2017-18, it had fallen to £2.7 million.

Across England, spending fell by 53 per cent over the same period, from £883 million to £416 million.

Youth justice: Councils in England must also establish youth offending teams, to help prevent children and young people becoming involved in crime, or to stop reoffending.

In Calderdale, spending on youth justice has fallen by 10 per cent in real terms since 2012-13, from £1.5 million to £1.4 million.

Across England, spending is down by 22 per cent, or £75 million.

The Local Government Association said youth offending teams had an outstanding track record but had been "victims of their own success".

"As the numbers of young offenders has fallen, so has the grant from central government to continue the preventative work that caused the fall in the first place," a spokeswoman said.

“Councils must be given the resources they need to work with young people and prevent their involvement in crime in the first place, rather than simply picking up the pieces after offences have been committed."

Looked-after children: In 2012-13, spending on looked after children – those in residential or foster care – made up 32 per cent of Calderdale Borough Council's total children and young people's budget.

By 2017-18, this had risen to 42 per cent.

It was a similar story across England, where the proportion rose from 39 per cent to 48 per cent.

A spokesman for the Children's Commissioner said: "All of this shows that less money is being spent on low-level work and more money is being spent on children in crisis.

"Essentially, what this means is we are supporting many fewer children, but are supporting them in more expensive ways."

In response to the fall in spending on children and young people's services, a spokesman for the Department of Education said: "We must help parents who face difficulties to strengthen their family relationships so they can properly support their children.

“That is why we’re putting an extra £410 million into social care this year, including children’s, alongside £84 million over the next five years to keep more children at home with their families safely, helping reduce the demand on services."