After initial reduction, referrals to local children’s social care remained steady during lockdown as national figures show referrals fell by a fifth

Date published: 15 September 2020

Following an initial drop in referrals at the start of Covid-19, the number of children referred to children’s social care for support remained steady in Rochdale despite the pandemic.

National figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) show referrals fell during the height of lockdown but Rochdale has latterly seen an increase and levelling off after an initial drop in enquiries.

Social workers and children’s services teams have done an incredible job trying to keep children and young people safe and well during this hugely challenging period.

Figures from the LGA show children’s social care teams across the country received 41,190 referrals between April and June – around 18 per cent lower than the same period over each of the past three years.

Nationally a total of 1,640 children started to be looked after as a result over the same period – down a third on the same period over each of the past three years.

However, in the Rochdale borough, after an initial drop, referrals overall have increased slightly on the same time period last year, contrasting the national picture.

Councillor Kieran Heakin, cabinet member for children’s service, said: “Our children’s social care staff have worked exceptionally well during very challenging times for themselves and our families.

“They’ve kept up visual contact of children and families in a variety of innovative ways.

“Working from the office and from their home working set ups, they’ve dealt with some very emotional and complex cases to support families who are struggling. Having many pupils out of school for so long has had an impact on referrals in to us but we’ve seen an increase in members of the community coming forward and raising their concerns; truly showing how safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.

“We’re really proud of the service we’ve still been able to deliver. Colleagues in our early help teams have also been a lifeline for families throughout this pressured time, preventing situations escalating to social care intervention.”

The LGA is calling on the government to ensure councils have long-term, sustainable funding to invest in preventative, universal and early help services so children, young people and families receive the practical, emotional, educational and mental health support they need, as soon as they need it.

Councillor Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The impacts of the pandemic will be far reaching for some children, young people and their families. As this becomes clearer, more children and their families are likely to need support and councils expect to see a significant rise in referrals to children’s social care and demand for wider children’s support services.

“Some children and their families will need significant interventions, but others will just need some extra help to get through a difficult period. It will be essential that the right services can be there to support them and help them cope.

“It is vital that councils have the funding they need to support children, young people and families during the current phase of the crisis and beyond. Investment in crucial preventative services would mean help can be available when it is first needed and not when families and young people reach crisis point.”

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