Logo For Twitter

Spend on children's services doubles in a decade for poorest councils

Posted on November 20, 2023

Almost One Third of Council Funding Now Spent on Children’s Social Care Services

Almost one-third of council funding is now being spent on children’s social care services, near double the amount compared to 2011/12, new analysis from SIGOMA can reveal.

Analysis by SIGOMA - the organisation representing 47 urban local authorities in the northern, midlands and south-coast regions of England – of the Government’s children’s social care services spend data reveals that the average SIGOMA member now spends 29 per cent of its Core Spending Power on children’s services compared to just 15 per cent in 2011/12. Across England’s upper tier councils, the average is now 27 per cent – increasing from 14 per cent from 2011/12.

While this trend is impacting all social care authorities, the poorest areas have seen the most significant increases. Since, 2011/12, the 15 (top 10%) most deprived authorities have seen a more than doubling of spend on children’s services as a proportion of spending power, from 15 per cent to 31 per cent. This is higher than the national average and the rate for the 15 (bottom 10%) least deprived councils, who have seen an 11 per cent rise from 12 to 23 per cent.

Blackpool, the most deprived local authority in England, has seen a trebling in the proportion of spend from 15 per cent to 45 per cent.

The news comes as data released last week revealed that the number of children looked after by local authorities was at a record level and has risen by 25 per cent since 2011/12.

Chair of SIGOMA, Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, said the significant rise in children’s services spend is causing more and more councils to be at risk of issuing Section 114s (S114). A recent survey by SIGOMA, which looked at the state of councils’ finances, found that ten per cent of members were considering issuing a S114 this year, while close to 20 per cent said they were considering it in the next year, if no additional funding from the government was provided.

Many councils said this was the first time they were having to take these drastic actions due to their lack of cash reserves to balance the current year’s budget. The survey highlighted that the most common service demand was children’s services, with high inflation and the legacy of a decade of cuts the main drivers of financial distress.

Today, SIGOMA, in partnership with Unison are calling for the Chancellor to step in at this week’s Autumn Statement with vital additional funding for children’s services, providing emergency funding this year and next.

Chair of SIGOMA, Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, said: “These figures, published by the Government, reveal the significant pressures councils across the country are now facing, spending almost a third of their spending power on children’s services, a figure that has been rapidly rising over the last decade.

The market for children’s services is broken, and our members are telling us that some specialist placements for the most vulnerable children can cost as much as £1m per annum, with many costing between £250k and £750k. As more and more funding is being spent on social care there is less funding for the preventative services that can save money in the long-term, and the other services that residents value most.

These demand-led pressures are leaving councils financially stretched and at breaking point. The King’s Speech earlier this month gave no confidence or assurance as to how councils can be supported out of this desperate situation.

“The Autumn Statement is one of the final opportunities to give our members the support they need for the next year, and we urge the Chancellor not to miss this opportunity by providing additional funding for children's services."

Cllr Jim Hobson, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Many local authorities up and down the country are facing challenges, not just Blackpool, and the Government will be facing a crisis on critical services if it does not react soon.

“Ever since the Government began to cut funding to local authorities and, in particular those with significant challenges related to deprivation like Blackpool, balancing the books has been difficult.

“Each year we are expected to save tens of £millions without any reduction in the demands on our most significant services like children’s and adult social care. As a result there are always pressures on us financially and these become more difficult with each passing year. Government really needs to wake up to these challenges and stop pretending that the number of local authorities that have issued a section 114 notice is just down to bad luck or bad management. A fair funding approach is long overdue and is now a matter of urgency.”

UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “The rocketing costs of essential services are pushing councils over the brink.

“Children’s social care is complex, important work providing a lifeline for a generation. But the overwhelming pressure on staff means there are huge vacancy levels, causing local authorities to rely on expensive agencies to fill the gaps.

“The chancellor must provide significant extra funding for all councils to tackle these costs, without forcing cuts to be made elsewhere, so children get the support they need.”


SIGOMA is a campaigning network of urban local authorities. We are open to all metropolitan districts outside London and to urban unitary councils sharing similar characteristics with our existing members.

We have a total of 47 members, made up of metropolitan and unitary councils, stretching from the North-east and North-west, through Yorkshire and the Midlands to the south-west coast.

SIGOMA functions at a political level through its MPs' Group, at a local leadership level through its council Members' Group and at a technical level through its Treasurers' and Technical Officers' groups. For more information on SIGOMA membership, contact the SIGOMA office on 01226 773142. See What We Do for more information.


Local authority/


2011-12 CSP (£ millions)

2011-12 Children's Services Spend (£ millions)

% Proportion

2022-23** CSP (£ millions)

2022-23** Children's Services Spend (£ millions)

% Proportion










England Upper-Tier

















15 Most Deprived









15 Least Deprived









*Rank of average score of the 151 upper-tier authorities

**Some councils had not submitted 22-23 Revenue Outturn (RO) Data. For these councils, their 21/22 Core Spending power and 21/22 RO data has been used.

Children Looked after data can be found here - https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoptions/2023