The Eleventh Hour

First launched in 2011, Action for Children’s annual red book reports has helped us to see the changing needs of children and families, alongside the pressures on the services providing vital support. 

This year’s report, the eleventh hour, asked managers where they believed the needs of children, young people and families had changed in the last 12 months. Rather, worryingly managers pointed to a whole range of issues greater support is needed.

Emotional wellbeing

Over half (59 per cent) said that children and young people they work with are struggling more with their emotional wellbeing and mental health.  Positive emotional wellbeing is really important so that everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential.

Without acting early, with mental health problem can escalate leading to negative consequences  issues later in life. The cost of not tackling these problems is stark –not dealing with mental illness in England has been estimated at over £105 billion each year.

Tacking neglect

Over the last few years Action for Children has campaigned for more to be done to tackle child neglect – our campaign success to update the criminal  law on children neglect and the launch of  new online portal are important steps in the right direction.

However there is still more that we need to do to address the neglect. Over half of managers (52 per cent) are seeing more suspected cases of neglect this year compared to last year. The findings from the eleventh hour underline why more needs to be done and why the government must act on our call to produce a national child neglect strategy.

Challenge on the ground

We also asked service managers about challenges they were facing on the ground.

Over two thirds (68 per cent) said demand for their services have increased in the last 12 months. They told us this is often because of reduced resources limiting other services in the area to offer the help they need.

This increase in demand comes as funding continues to remain very tight – 48 per cent said that their budgets have reduced in the last year.

Despite the best efforts of services to find new ways of working we are creeping closer toward the point where children and families will not be able to get the help they need.

Within local authorities there is little room left for efficiency savings and without a rethink of the system we will to be able to provide families the vital help they need.

We need to act early

We know from the work in our services across the UK that acting early can make all the difference. It delivers better outcomes for children and families and avoids them having to suffer through personal struggles. We also know that it makes economic sense – it would reduce the need to spend on more expensive crisis driven approached.

What is now needed is for services to be supported to make the switch to delivering support early on. We are calling for longer-term spending commitments from central government to give local authorities the chance to plan ahead.

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