To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to the report of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults entitled, No place at home, published in September 2019, if his Department will allocated resources to local authorities in areas with high rates of county lines grooming and exploitation to ensure the provision of (a) in-area placements and (b) accommodation to children and young people (i) involved in and (ii) vulnerable to county lines criminal exploitation through (A) children’s services, (B) social housing services and (C) temporary and emergency housing.
We are working across government to reduce the risk of children being criminally exploited and groomed by gangs, including involvement in ‘County Lines’. Last year we strengthened the statutory guidance for safeguarding children, ‘Working Together’, to support practitioners in preventing child criminal exploitation. We are also investing £2 million in the Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme, to provide dedicated advice and practical support to local area partnerships, focused on developing effective multi-agency responses to identifying the risks and warning signs of exploitation so that action can be taken early.
Ensuring children and young people have safe and secure living arrangements is absolutely vital in reducing the risks of criminal exploitation. This is particularly important for children in care, who are some of society’s most vulnerable children. We have made over £200 billion available until 2020 for councils to deliver local services, including children’s services, and provided a further £410 million in 2019-20 for local authorities to invest in adult and children’s social care services. Thinking ahead to next year, we are now able to confirm that all social care grants available this year will continue at least flat in cash terms.
Taken together with a new £1 billion cash grant for social care, this means that councils will benefit from having £2.9 billion of extra funding available to them for the core services that are so important to residents. Beyond social care, we are protecting vital front-line services by increasing elements of core settlement funding in line with inflation, and we will consult on a 2 per cent core council tax principle for all councils next year.
Outside of the main Local Government Finance Settlement, local government will also see increases from wider resources made available this Spending Round, including a £700 million increase in grant funding for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to make sure that there is sufficient provision to meet the needs of children in their care. We are supporting local authorities to increase the sufficiency of care placements and ensure that placements meet children’s needs, including investing part of our £200 million children’s social care Innovation Programme into three residential care projects to increase councils’ capacity and improve commissioning practice.
Government provides largely un-ringfenced funding to councils, giving them freedom over the money they receive. This allows them to work with their residents to decide how best to make their spending decisions.