Patrick Butler is right that the pandemic has made the crisis in children’s social care “even more acute” (Crisis in children’s services in England is shocking if not surprising, 11 August). However, it is difficult to see how the government’s review of children’s social care will achieve the radical changes needed, for two reasons.
First, it will require a commitment to more progressive taxation and increases in the minimum wage and universal credit to combat major inequalities, including those associated with the rising demand for children’s and youth services: childhood poverty, social deprivation, homelessness, poor health, ethnicity and disability.
Second, it will require the introduction of needs-led funding of local authority services; the end of exploitative privatised provision, including the use of poor-quality unregulated accommodation; and the reversal of draconian cuts in local services from 2010, which against rising demands have prevented children remaining with their families and communities, or receiving quality care to fulfil their potential into adulthood.
Prof Mike Stein
University of York
Your report on children’s social services paints an accurate picture of help and care for children collapsing and in crisis. The report focused on more demand during the pandemic, but there has been a longer trajectory of decay, disinvestment and disregard.
Since 2010, Conservative‑led governments have targeted austerity at poor communities and at public services. Privatisation has been promoted, and well over £200m each year is now gushing out of children’s services as profits for international venture capitalists. Poorer services at a higher cost.
The pandemic has not caused today’s difficulties. Instead, it is the virus of an ideology and intention promoting a privatised marketplace amid cuts that riddle children’s social services and leave children and families stranded and neglected. It is a virus that needs to be tackled with urgency.
Emeritus professor of social work, Chepstow, Monmouthshire
In response to your interesting but disturbing article about the dire status of social care in England (‘FaceTime isn’t enough’: the struggle to protect England’s at-risk children, 11 August), I am aware of the equally disturbing situation in Scotland.
A friend of mine is a lead social worker in Scotland. In September 2020, six months into the pandemic, her team was down to a third of its regular staff level and some key workers were isolating. Schools were closed and she was working seven days a week with a huge caseload, trying to maintain the safety of at-risk children. Meanwhile, the country was clapping NHS workers, among whom were health visitors who refused to conduct home visits due to the pandemic. Social workers were left to pick up the pieces.
The social care system is grossly underfunded and social workers continue to be a poor and undervalued component in our care system. As your report states: “It is a ‘travesty as a civilisation’ not to put in the resources to be able to support society’s most vulnerable young people.”
Philip R Ratcliffe
Dunoon, Argyll and Bute