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Bright Futures: Getting the best for children, young people and families

Making sure all children and young people can have the bright future they deserve is a key ambition of every council. If we want the best possible outcomes, children must be at the heart of everything we do – councils are central to making this happen. But our children’s services are under increasing pressure.

Councils are facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services by 2O2O, and were forced to overspend on their children’s services budgets by £6O5 million across England in 2O15/16. Government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has also been significantly cut, by almost £5OO million since 2O13. It is projected to drop by a further £183 million by 2O2O.

Within these limitations, councils have worked hard to protect budgets for essential child protection services despite large reductions elsewhere. Many see improving outcomes as a council-wide priority, looking carefully at the impact of wider economic and social policy on future life chances and encouraging all services to take a more childcentred approach. A stronger move towards the devolution of powers from national to local government would give councils greater flexibility to design joined-up local services to meet the needs of children and families.

Just as a single service cannot make a difference on its own, neither can a single partner or a single local area. Although councils shape services around the priorities of their local communities, they must do so within the wider policy and financial framework set by central government and delivered by numerous agencies. To truly get the best for every child, we strongly believe that improved outcomes must become a golden thread that runs through all areas of public policy.

Our colleagues at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) have set out their vision of a country that works for all children and families, highlighting the conditions that are required for all children and young people to thrive. We support and share this vision, while recognising that councils currently face considerable challenges in delivering consistently high quality services. Funding has been significantly reduced across the public sector, whilst the demand for services to support children in need has surged.

We cannot carry on like this. This paper sets out seven clear priorities for coordinated action across the public, community and voluntary sectors, which we believe will help drive the improvement necessary to consistently offer the brightest future for children and families. Taken together, we believe that this represents an ambitious plan, whilst at the same time recognising the challenges and actions we can take in response. If we want to make sure every child and young person can look forward to a bright future, local and national government must be united in their determination to get the best.

Councillor Richard Watts Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board

Councillor Dick Madden Chair, LGA Children’s Social Care Task Group